Dear Mom, please let me come home for money
Jobs are being eliminated in much of America, but many Pinedale businesses are still hiring, a promising economy for summer job seekers of all ages.
Natural Gas Industry
Though natural gas extraction isn't necessarily on their horizons, many college students are taking advantage of the industry this summer in reaction to disappearing internship opportunities.
by Casey Dean, Pinedale Online!
June 7, 2008
Summertime is usually the season college students secure internships away from home and high school students to take full-time jobs locally.
But this is not a typical summer, and Pinedale is not a typical town.
The state of the national economy has cut into the job market, leaving students of all ages in the lurch this summer. Internship experience is increasingly valuable to undergraduates for resume building; students who intern with a firm before their senior year can often count on a permanent position with that firm upon graduation. But when Bear Stearns and the like can’t maintain a full staff, they can’t afford to train and pay summer interns. An Aug. 2004 New York Times article reported the same trend in other fields, including politics, television and film. According to Vault, a career information website, about half of all internships are now unpaid.
“Internships are good for my resume, but they usually don’t pay very good,” said Kendall Brunette, a Natural Resources major at Cornell University and 2006 graduate of Pinedale High School. Most of the internships she considered were unpaid.
“As college students, we need all the money we can get,” she said.
Consequently, Brunette and many of her peers have returned to their hometowns for free housing and traditional summer jobs like those they had in high school. PHS graduates have the advantage of escaping the nationwide recession by returning to booming Sublette County.
“Obviously it’s thriving exceptionally well compared to the rest of the nation,” local socioeconomic analyst Jeffrey Jacquet said of Sublette County. “Due to the energy industry, it’s definitely going to be a pocket where the economic downturn happening in the rest of the nation isn’t going to hit quite as hard.”
Wages in Sublette County are well above statewide and national averages, according to the “Sublette County Wage Study" by the Sublette Community Partnership. The Federal and Wyoming Minimum Wages are $5.85 and $5.15 per hour, respectively.
“The wages paid in Sublette County are still often twice that of the Federal Minimum Wage, starting at approximately $9 per hour … for jobs such as cashier, attendant, food preparer, or stocking clerk,” according to the wage study. Construction wages start at $12 per hour, non-skilled gas field jobs start at about $14 and rig hands start at about $24.
Jae Bing, University of Wyoming sophomore, said he is driving trucks in the gas fields primarily because he can earn unbeatable wages and live with his parents for free. Vehicles aren’t his focus at school, though.
“Yeah, I’m going to UW to drive trucks,’ the marketing major joked.
Brunette, who plans to pursue a career in consulting or air quality research in the Rocky Mountain region, was fortunate enough to come home to a summer job related to her field of study with what she called “decent pay.” She opted to work for the U.S. Geological Survey in a position relatively close to her planned career, but not before considering working for the county for higher pay.
Brunette is not the only PHS graduate who struggled to find related summer employment despite majoring in a locally applicable specialty.
Sunny Raper, a 2006 PHS graduate and Ag-Business major at Casper College, is also home for the summer because she didn’t find an internship or related work.
“My summer job has absolutely nothing to do with my field of study,” Raper wrote through online correspondence. “I am working at Moosely Mailboxes.”
Many students across the U.S. are avoiding rent by living with their parents, but Sublette County students are combating particularly high housing costs – 35 percent higher than the rest of the state excluding Teton County – with this approach.
2005 PHS graduate Skye Saylor isn’t living under her parents’ roof, but she did elect to spend the summer before her senior year working for money, not job experience.
“During the school year, I did look into a few [internships], but none were paid and would have taken up the time that I used to go to my ‘real’ job – at which I actually made money,” the Montana State University graphic design and biology major wrote.
Other Pinedale natives without internships who are not returning to Pinedale have a different strategy this summer. Jason Vickrey, a junior in finance at the College of Southern Idaho and 2006 PHS graduate, is enrolled in classes all summer. Monica DeGraffenreid, a Washington State University architecture senior and 2005 PHS graduate, is taking one session of summer courses and remains undecided as to what to do with the remainder of the season. She is less concerned about her unresolved employment for her last summer vacation than some.
“After this session is over with – I really don’t know what’s going on! But I’m okay with that!” DeGraffenreid wrote through online correspondence. She said she may return to Pinedale to work for Rendezvous Meadows Golf, but with two weeks of classes remaining, she still has nothing set.
“I don’t know, I just need to make money,” she wrote.
Classes and a full-time job comprise an undergraduate remedy to the multiplicity of unpaid internships, but summer school is less appealing for the high schools students whose jobs have become college students’ bread and butter. Only 34.2 percent of U.S. teens are anticipated to have employment this summer, according to research released in April by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University – the lowest since the government began tracking it. However, Jacquet is dubious this is the case in Pinedale.
“We just have so many job vacancies and such low unemployment. I think it’s the case that you could walk into any business and get a job – even part time – because everyone’s looking for help,” he said.
Pinedale’s economic vitality is not only saving the summer for many out-of-internship college students, but is in turn in a position to benefit from the influx. Jacquet said undergraduates could assuage labor shortages with a personal touch.
“It’s probably a net plus for the community to have these folks returning... While it might not be what they were looking for personally, it will probably be good for the community. It’s a workforce, they already have housing, and they already know the community.”
Editor’s Note: Former Pinedale and Big Piney High School graduates, what are you doing now? We’d like to hear from you. If you graduated after 2002, please send us a note and let us know where you are now and what kind of a job you have. We are interested in knowing where you are, what kind of a job you are doing, and if it is a field you expected you’d find yourself in after your graduation. Are you still in Wyoming? Are you working at a job you expect to make your career? Are you furthering your education and just working summer jobs to earn money to complete your schooling? Please send us a note to firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Sublette County grad checking in” on the e-mail subject line. We’ll post any responses we receive.