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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Students struggle to find summer employment


Maggie McNamara ’21 planned on working at a paid internship with a marketing firm and making extra money as a swim coach this summer. Both jobs would allow her to pay her lease for her off-campus housing and tuition for the summer class she needs to graduate on time. 

Both work opportunities were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The work for McNamara’s internship required in-person work at the office, which was made impossible by physical distancing guidelines implemented by her employer. McNamara said it eventually became easier for a full-time employee to take over her responsibilities. Due to Pennsylvania State restrictions, the swim club is not allowed to open yet this summer.  

McNamara said she is responsible for paying for all of her rent and utilities bill. 

“Luckily, my landlord is amazing, and he’s been super gracious during this time. But I only had money saved up until a certain point because every summer, I know I’m going to get the check for my summer job,” McNamara said. “I knew I would be working the internship, so I was feeling confident.”

McNamara said losing her summer jobs has added a “layer of stress” on not only this summer, but also on the upcoming school year.

“I have to take a summer class to graduate on time and classes over the summereven though I’m taking it once a weekare still crazy expensive,” McNamara said. “I had to reach out to my mom and ask for some help. And I feel bad because I don’t come from a super wealthy background. That was really difficult. That’s a huge burden on our family to pay for this summer class in addition to rent.” 

McNamara is one of many young adults who  are currently unemployed due to complications that have arised since businesses have had to implement social distancing guidelines.  As of April 2020, the unemployment rate for 18- 24-year-olds is approximately 30%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Fallon Oates ’21 is also struggling to make ends meet this summer and eventually next year, without her typical summer jobs working as a waitress and camp counselor. 

“During the school year, I really tried to focus on my grades rather than my income,” Oates said. “So the summer is when I try to make most of it. [This situation is] putting a little pressure on me [for] next year.”

Despite the camp tentatively planning to open in July, Oates said she can only wait another month before looking for another job before her funds become too low. 

“I know grocery stores are hiring right now. I know a couple of restaurants looking for delivery people,” Oates said. “Everybody’s just going to be looking for a job.” 

The Career Development Center has created a COVID-19 Job Guide to help alumni and students find and retain employment through and after the coronavirus pandemic. 

Trish Shafer, M.A., director of the Career Development Center, said the uncertainty of when restrictions on businesses will be lifted is making the job search process especially difficult amidst many economic shutdowns in different states. 

“This is a transition that we are in right now but this is just going to become part of the way we work,” Shafer said. “One of the big shifts that we are doing with students is really encouraging [them]  to think about the skills they will need when the economy does open up.”  

Shannon Kelly ’21 was furloughed by her company, Grainger, where she worked part-time as a sales associate.  

“If it weren’t for unemployment, I would be struggling a lot, but actually because of unemployment and the CARES Act, I’m making more money unemployed than [when] I was working,” Kelly said. 

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act is a law intended to address the economic fallout of the pandemic in the U.S., according to the Act’s website. The CARES Act provides additional funding for Unemployment Assistance.

Kelly is grateful for the pay she is receiving and would urge others to take the same steps she has.   

“I feel really lucky because I know a lot of people haven’t even filed for unemployment and haven’t been getting anything,” Kelly said. “I know my mother filed for unemployment two weeks before I did and she didn’t start getting any bi-weekly payments until after I started getting mine.”

Schafer said that navigating through the pandemic job losses and public assistance programs is relatively new for students currently enrolled at St. Joe’s. 

“Students at St. Joe’s have had the incredible luxury of being in a very strong economy since [they] have been in college,” Shafer said. “The percentage of time we spend networking is going to be much heavier now. When things do open up, your network will know what you are looking for and reach out to try to help you.” 

McNamara said despite the unfamiliar and uncertain environment, she still has hope for the future. 

“I have some type of faith in humanity that people are going to be more understanding and more willing to be accommodating during the situation,” McNamara said. “So, even though things seem really stressful right now, they’re going to get better.”

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