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Employer Perceptions of Seasonal Summer Camp Employment

Dan Richmond, Jim Sibthorp, M. Deborah Bialeschki

Abstract


Every year summer camps employ over 1.5 million mostly emerging adults to staff primarily their summer seasonal programs. Considerable literature exists on the importance of education, career-related experiences, and interpersonal and intrapersonal skills, but little is known about employer perceptions of work experiences not aligned with a job candidate’s career, like seasonal summer employment. More specifically, almost no research exists on the value of seasonal summer camp work from the perspective of hiring professionals in fields outside of the camp industry. Therefore, the primary purpose of this study was to understand how hiring professionals from a variety of industries view seasonal camp employment. Specifically, the study sought to identify the effects of promotion, industry-specific work, and gender on likelihood of interviewing the candidate. A secondary purpose was to better understand how hiring professionals view social-emotional learning (SEL) skills commonly associated with summer camp work. This study included a panel sample of 327 hiring professionals from a variety of industries. Analysis of quantitative and qualitative data resulted in three major conclusions about seasonal summer camp employment: (a) job advancement and promotion at camp were important to employers, (b) industry-related job experience was the most important factor when evaluating job candidates, and (c) several SEL skills important to the modern workplace could be attributed to working at camp and were highly desired by hiring professionals. The findings have several implications for camp leaders. First, when retaining camp staff from summer to summer, opportunities for promotion are valuable to both staff and future employers. Second, since industry-related experience matters most to hiring professionals, camps may need to accept (a) that staff leave after one or two summers to seek job-related experience or (b) that they may need to be more creative in helping their best staff “job craft” their position to align with employees’ career aspirations. Third, camp leaders may want to emphasize the opportunity to develop SEL skills and capacities while recruiting new staff.

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Keywords


Summer camp; staff; employer preferences; seasonal summer employment; employer bias

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.18666/JPRA-2020-10355

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