Could teens be the answer to Hawaii’s labor shortage? Some companies rely on it

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) — A post-pandemic business boom has Hawaiian companies desperate for workers — so much so that they’re getting creative about who to target.

Tina Yamaki, president of Retail Merchants of Hawaii, says companies have always hired teenagers but never tried to target younger potential applicants than they are now.

“We’re seeing more and more signs in people’s storefronts saying we’re hiring 16 and older just to attract these high school kids, especially for the summer,” Yamaki said.

She said it’s because there are still severe labor shortages across the country.

“And we find that workers are very selective about where they work,” Yamaki said. “You look at what is the corporate culture? Are you interested in me? They want to be heard.”

According to the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, the number of minors applying for work permits usually increases between April and June.

But at the moment they still don’t see many applicants.

At the Homegrown retail store, staffing remains a challenge.

“It’s a very competitive hiring environment right now,” Kuulei Bedder, owner of Homegrown.

They have always been open to working with teenagers and are currently looking to fill three positions.

“In the past there has always been a strong focus on finding candidates with customer service and retail experience, but that has changed,” Bedder said. “What we’re looking for, and I think the most important thing, is candidates who have values ​​that align with ours.”

Roseann Vierra-Schoening, manager of T&C Surf at the Pearlridge Center, said they are preparing for summer hiring. “We are looking for inventories, we are looking for cashiers,” said Vierra-Schoening. “We are looking for natural salespeople, but also junior management positions.”

But there’s an added challenge, she said, they need someone committed to working weekends.

“Many children may wish to have their weekends off, but we ask that they give at least one of those days for the weekend, if not both,” Vierra-Schoening said.

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