STATE COLLEGE, Pa (WTAJ)– With nearly 50,000 students at Penn State’s University Park Campus, many might believe the businesses just a few blocks off campus in Downtown State College would have no trouble hiring workers.
But currently, that’s not the case for many owners who are struggling to hire a full staff.
Monday, WTAJ spoke with business owners and PSU students who say there’s multiple reasons why more “help wanted” signs are appearing downtown.
“It’s real, I see the signs… I see signs where I never saw signs, I see signs that say hiring all positions…” said Pat Daugherty, Owner of The Tavern Restaurant.
Other owners confirmed that the aforementioned signs rarely even get a glance from PSU students, who typically walk right past.
“I think they’re time starved, ” said Daugherty who added that it’s hard to find students available to work full eight hour shifts.
“They have a full plate. A while ago we rarely had kids take a summer off and go on an internship. Now it seems it’s almost mandatory. I think they’re doing more things outside of just going to class,” he said.
Nearby another business, Canyon Pizza, is struggling to find student workers too.
“Even the one’s who do end up getting hired probably last a couple days… they just end up not showing up or finding reasons not to come in,” said Canyon Pizza Co-Owner, Matt Floravit.
But some students told WTAJ it’s not because they don’t want to have a job, but that it simply doesn’t work into their day.
“It’s just really hard to balance school work and a social life, a sorority, and have a job all at the same time,” Margaux Rustad, PSU Student.
Without students applying, owners are now hiring employees who aren’t students… some come to State College from nearly 50 miles away.
But, Daugherty is still able to hire a wait staff comprised of mostly students, thanks to shorter shifts (just over four hours long). Dedicating four hours of work seems to better fit student schedules.
“We’re lucky that way… another way we’re lucky is I have so many servers who’s parents used to work here,” he said.
Servers like Paige Heim, a State College native attending Penn State.
“My mom, she worked here, my aunt worked here, and my uncle worked here… I’ve got a lot of connections to the Tavern,” she said.
Daugherty feels it’s family connections like this that will help to supply the restaurant with a new generation of workers.
Another perk, according the staff at The Tavern, is more time to finish homework on weeknights. Employees say they’re often let out early, around 8:00 p.m. as the dinner crowd dwindles.
“Our dinner shift doesn’t last that long during the week, so we have a shift that might suite their schedule, better than a place that is open later,” Daugherty said.
While businesses like Canyon Pizza are in rush hour well after 8:00 p.m., Floravit says it’s more than just limited work hours that stops students from applying for downtown jobs.
“I feel like some of the students get their money from their parents… or don’t have to work,” he said.
Floravit, along with others, feels this could be a product of the tuition price at Penn State, which (while not climbing for PA residents this year) is reported as one of the highest rates in the nation, for a public university. Consequently, Floravit feels this may be creating a student body who’s parents have deeper pockets.
Some students agreed: “Less kids have to pay their way through college, so they’re not as motivated to get a job, I feel like that’s a big part of it,” Rustad said.
Floravit cited a successful economy and low unemployment numbers as other contributing factors towards his shortage of job applicants. Still, he’s puzzled as to why this year’s PSU students aren’t showing some interest in working to earn some spending cash.
“We might’ve had five or six applications come in since the start of the Fall semester… definitely a lot different than past years. Before I had to weed through people. Now pretty much anyone who applies anymore we end up just giving em’ a shot,” Floravit said.
Rustad argued: “It’s unrealistic for a college kid to have a full-time job… our course load changes. Every week we have new assignments… exams don’t follow a set schedule. So to have set shifts for 8 hours in unrealistic for college kids.”
Floravit said: “I really couldn’t get much more flexible. I really let the people make their own schedule for the most part. It’s been so hard to keep people that I’ve had to offer them whatever they want to do… just let me know what your availability is.”
Still, he can’t seem to retain student workers.
Monday, along College Avenue, WTAJ did find some students who said they might apply for jobs at downtown businesses.
“I don’t have as much money now…. it’s getting harder to pay for things. I’d like to have an income.” said PSU Student Morgan Kramer.
Others already working like Heim said having a job while enrolled as a student has its advantages
“It’s helped me with time management. I was able to get on top of my classes. Having a job actually helped me out more with not procrastinating,” she said.
Owners who spoke to WTAJ said they’re not necessarily looking for full-time employees. Many are open to part-time workers, even those who are free one-to-two days a week.
Outside of downtown jobs, PSU reports that 13% of students have jobs on-campus at University Park.