Labor Shortage Loads More Responsibility on Student Workers


Photo by: Ashlyn Jacobs

While consumers adapt to the struggling food and retail industries with patience, employers seek willing workers to fill deficits in their staff.

Ashlyn Jacobs, Editor in Chief

Staffing issues hit local industries this year, lengthening wait times and shortening open hours in the face of an unprecedented worker shortage, The Post-Crescent said in a Sept. 3 article. 

While consumers adapt to the struggling food and retail industries with patience,  employers seek willing workers to fill deficits in their staff.  As a result, more of the onus falls on the high school students who often fill these positions, increasing their opportunities as well as their stress levels. 

“There’s just a lot of pressure to do the impossible sometimes,” Emily Wolf, NHS senior and Walmart employee said. Hired in April, Wolf worked over 30 hours a week at one point — while still in school.

After realizing the toll it took on her mental health and academic performance, she requested to reduce her hours. The switch took a while to happen, Wolf said, and in the meanwhile, the lack of proper training made her responsibilities more difficult. “They were willing to do anything to have staff in the store.” 

Senior Lindsey Harris, who works at Dairy Queen on Commercial St., also noticed the effects of overscheduling on her workplace: “It’s still a fun environment, but it’s more solemn,” she said. Disgruntled customers and fatigue place a damper on workplace relationships. 

Aside from workplace strain, however, the labor shortage has also opened a plethora of opportunities for students seeking employment. Harris now works as a closing assistant on some nights, gaining extra compensation and more authority. 

In addition, students seeking employment can enjoy an open job market and competitive wages.

“Employers are reaching out like crazy,” Mary Schulz, NHS work-based learning (WBL) coordinator said. Schulz provides resources to connect students with the working world, whether for the WBL course, a Youth Apprenticeship program, or even volunteer opportunities. Interested students can find her in the Career Center on weekday mornings. 

Overall, the upsurge of vacant positions allows students to work more hours — whether for better or worse.

School counselor Marcy Bauman said in cases where students must work extra to support their families, teachers understand and accommodate. And, she said, setting boundaries with employers and striving to balance school and work provides students with learning opportunities. As a counselor, Bauman and her colleagues in the Student Services office aim to support student workers in the process. “That’s why we’re here: to help everybody out.”