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So Many Jobs, So Few Youths Who'll Take Them

June 29, 1989|DAVID WHARTON | Times Staff Writer

For the second summer in a row, San Fernando Valley teen-agers will have their pick of jobs as they embark on vacation from school.

There are simply more summer jobs in the Valley than there are workers.

"We have quite a few openings that are going unfilled," said Judy Fisher, a supervisor for the state Employment Development Department in a North Hollywood office that helps match employers with teen-age job hunters.

Opportunities aren't so plentiful in other parts of the area. State employment officials said high school students are having trouble finding work in areas such as Hollywood and South-Central Los Angeles. But in the Valley, a combination of factors has created job heaven for teen-agers.

Small businesses, retail shops and shopping malls--which depend on young workers--abound from Burbank to Granada Hills. Magic Mountain in Valencia hires thousands of teen-agers each summer to help run the amusement park. And state officials said some teen-agers from homes in the Valley's affluent neighborhoods don't have to, and don't want to, work.

National Trend

The Valley is mirroring a national trend. An estimated 24.6 million young people will look for summer work this year, but that's 700,000 fewer than last summer.

"This decline stems principally from a continual decline in the 16-to-24 population group," said Michael Freeman, a statistical assistant with the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. "The size of this group has declined through the '80s."

Job-hunting students can afford to be choosey.

"They don't even take fast-food jobs," said Ruth Kronenfeld, assistant manager of the EDD's North Hollywood office. "Their first preference is something in an office or in a business where they can learn to do something, like a machine shop or a television repair shop."

Khoosheh Daneshi, 15, of Woodland Hills wanted to work in a mall. She ventured into Topanga Plaza and got a job at the first place she tried--a card and gift shop.

"I just went in, interviewed and they took me," Daneshi said.

Sherryl Soukup is a bit more selective. At the moment, she's working part time as a receptionist in a real estate office. The 16-year-old Tarzana resident said she is looking for a better job.

"I've worked for the past two or three years and it's easier to find jobs than it was in the past," Soukup said. "Basically, you can choose the kind of work you like and go for higher pay."

Businesses, needing to lure young workers, appear willing to increase salaries. The minimum wage is $4.25 an hour, but state officials said many Valley employers are offering from $4.50 to $5.50 as starting pay.

Even burger stands, which traditionally have had plenty of teen-agers to choose from, are uping the ante. A fast-food restaurant in Northridge recently advertised starting salaries of $5.35 an hour.

"There are so many jobs around that minimum wage . . . they just turn up their nose at it," said John Henderson, a work experience counselor at Chatsworth High School.

As experienced teen-agers maneuver for better jobs, a void has been created at the bottom of the work chain.

Two youth programs are busing young people from Glendale and South-Central Los Angeles to work at Magic Mountain. The amusement park has also campaigned to attract senior citizens for jobs as ride attendants and working in the park's shops and restaurants.

And Carey Klenetski recently got his first job when a friend recommended him for work as a junior counselor at the West Valley Jewish Community Center. Klenetski, 15, of Canoga Park, was worried that nobody would want to hire him.

"Some places just want people who have worked before," he said. "But when they had this job, they called me ."

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