Herald/TJ MAXWELL - Lifeguards Sam Mayo, left, and Nicolette Muller, patrol the pools Thursday at the Killeen Family Aquatics Center at Lions Club Park in Killeen.

By Rose L. Thayer

Killeen Daily Herald

Since 2000, the percentage of teens able to score summer jobs has steadily declined.

A study done by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2010 shows that 51 percent of teens found summer employment in 2000. By 2009, it had dropped to

32 percent.

Looking at this summer, teens can expect to see little improvement because of the budget deficits of federal, state and local governments, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., a global outplacement consulting agency.

Workforce Solutions Central Texas has seen budget deficits directly affect their programs. Last summer, the agency put 536 teens to work through the Workforce Investment Act Program that uses federal funding to pair teens with jobs in the public and private sectors, said Debbie Gommert, youth program administrator.

"This year we were unable to," Gommert said. "It's the first time we haven't had one in 25-plus years."

She said not providing this program puts those workers on the competitive market with other teens, who are already competing for jobs with unemployed adults who normally wouldn't look to part-time, seasonal or low-skilled labor positions.

Gommert said teens still visit the centers and are able to take advantage of other free services, such as résumé templates, job listings and résumé printing.

Jacques Means, a 16-year-old Killeen High School student, was able to find a job this summer, but it's in Austin. Means, who works at Aeropostale, said the drive is worth being able to work in an industry he loves.

"Fashion is my forte," Means said. He applied at clothing stores in Killeen, but said the market is just too competitive.

"It really is (hard) because there's a lot of teens here. It's a military town so there's a lot of kids," Means said.

Like many other teens, Means is saving up for a car and doesn't have his own transportation, so his grandfather drives him in to Austin for each shift.

Maureen Pearce, a 16-year-old student at Ellison High School, hasn't been so lucky with finding transportation.

Her mother is a soldier, so her schedule isn't flexible enough to work in driving Pearce to and from work. She's been offered positions at a few restaurants in town, but had to decline.

Instead, she's chosen to do some volunteering at the animal shelter and with the Keystone Club at the Clements Boys & Girls Club's teen center on East Elms Road.

"I just like staying busy," Pearce said. "It keeps you out of trouble and prepares you for later in life."

One entity that continually hires lots of teens every summer is the city of Killeen. This year alone, 88 teens were hired for seasonal positions as day camp counselors, public service workers and lifeguards - the same number hired last year.

Sundae Hein, director of the Aquatics Center, manages the 53 lifeguards hired this year. About 75 percent of them are teens.

"It's their first job, so you have to train them to come in on time. They learn a lot about responsibility and respect, and that's a big deal here," Hein said. "I'm setting them up for their future as an employee."

When hiring a teen with no prior work experience to judge, Hein said she looks mainly at their swim tests and their responses during the interview.

"I look to see if they are happy and if they have people skills, because they deal with the general public all day long," she said.

Sam Mayo, an 18-year-old student at Ellison High School, is working as a lifeguard with Killeen for the second summer in a row.

"It helps me develop some responsibility," Sam said. "It's fun, but it can also be very serious because you have to make sure everything is going good."

Contact Rose L. Thayer at rthayer@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.

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