summer camps

Summer Camps Face Staffing Struggles

The Arc Eastern Connecticut said they are in desperate need of summer camp counselors.

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A summer counselor job with Groton Parks and Recreation used to be one of the most popular summer gigs in town, the program supervisor said, with positions normally filling up by March. This year is different.

"It is a little worrisome because I just opened the position again. Where that generally never happens. It is usually open for like three or four weeks and then close it," said Eileen Cicchese, program supervisor for the Town of Groton Parks and Recreation Department. "It's a bit stressful and we don't want to turn any children away."

Cicchese said they still need about 10 counselors. As they continue to fill positions, they are considering having to cut the number of campers from 150 to about 100.

"I'm just thinking that every time we hire another staff, we can let 10 more kids in," said Cicchese.

The Arc Eastern Connecticut is in the same boat.

"We are really not getting the numbers of applicants for camp that we need," said Kathleen Stauffer, CEO of The Arc Eastern Connecticut.

For the last 20 years, The Arc Eastern Connecticut has run a summer program at Camp Harkness for people with developmental disabilities. They say they are desperate for counselors this year.

"We need 12 counselors. We currently have three and so we are nine short," said Stauffer. "And we can't do a camp with three counselors. It's not safe."

They are looking for counselors, nurses, and supervisors. It is a live-in and paid work assignment at the beach.

"I'm hoping this is a matter of just needing the right people to get the word to folks who are looking for summer jobs and aren't aware that this option is out there," said Stauffer. "Because I think it's a fun option."

According to experts, it's not just summer camps facing hiring challenges. Industries across the board are having trouble hiring for the summer.

"We've got a workforce crisis going on in Connecticut that is really second to none. There are 109,000 job openings right now," said Chris DiPentima, president and CEO of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, adding that the state's labor force has shrunk. "By about 72,000 people since the pre-pandemic February 2020 numbers."

That means that people who are searching jobs have options.

"Whereas, in the past, high schoolers would make due with a summer camp position. Now, they can easily walk into a fast food place and make $15 an hour," said Maurice "Mo" Cayer, a distinguished lecturer at the University of New Haven.

From camps, to lifeguards, and restaurants, experts say consumers should be prepared to feel the impact.

"People are going to have to exercise a lot of patience because that's the way it is," said Cayer.

"For everyone not happy with the current situation between the supply chain and the workforce, be patient and be kind to those who are helping you out. They are doing the best with the limited resources they have," said DiPentima.


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