Why Now is the Time to Recruit Top Students for Summer Help

Recruiting, recruiting, recruiting—it’s on every director’s mind and to-do list. As you follow up with campers from last summer, tend to marketing tactics, and make appearances at school and community events, how do you also make time for staff recruiting this time of year?

Hopefully, many of your camp counselors or interns from last summer have already decided that they want to come back next year. But it’s not too early to start pursuing talented staffers—especially in light of the competition for quality students these days. For many Fortune 500 companies and top-notch programs, the summer recruitment period for college interns occurs September to December.1

It’s Getting Harder to Find Summer Staff

Increasingly, camp directors at large struggle to find quality staff. In August 2016, 34% of camps accredited by the American Camp Association reported that it was harder to recruit staff members than it was just one year before.2

The workforce is dwindling for traditional summer employers of all kinds, largely due to the rise of internships. According to an NBC News interview with Dr. Kat Cohen, CEO and founder of IvyWise, an admissions counseling services company, “Many more students are seeking out internships or research opportunities over the summer now, as opposed to when I first started counseling students [nearly 20 years ago].”

“Everything is more competitive these days,” Dr. Cohen adds, “so getting hands-on work experience or hands-on research experience, and making contacts at companies that students might want to work at post-graduation can be a smart move.”3

In a public radio news report by KBIA, Camp Sabra Assistant Director Ben Panet confirmed that internships can be an obstacle in finding summer workers. “In the entire camping industry, there’s a struggle finding staff,” Panet says. “The internship game is our biggest struggle.”

Find out why Tom Holland, former CEO of ACA, believes the camp industry is one of the greatest workforce development programs ever seen.

How to “Sell” Camp to Ambitious Students

It’s hard for summer camp jobs to compete with a young person’s future employment. As you discuss job opportunities with camp-loving students, here are some convincing arguments in favor of camp:

Camp offers meaningful, life-changing work.

Today’s college students will be looking for employers who make a positive impact in the world. Not only that, these young people want to make a personal contribution to that end with challenging, mission-minded assignments.4

 So why wouldn’t they be motivated similarly for a summer job? According to James Davis, co-founder of Camp Stomping Ground, “In most internships and summer jobs, young adults are relegated to work below their capabilities because they simply aren’t trusted to take on greater responsibilities.If you want challenging work that will expand your worldview, camp is a great place to start.”5

Students who’ve already had meaningful experiences as campers (and many camp counselors have) know how life-changing camp can be. As you recruit staffers, capitalize on this generation’s inclination for good!

Internships are plentiful throughout the year.

Students can have their cake and eat it too by working at camp in the summer and interning another time of year. While taking classes, students can find work or internships that will allow them to develop technical skills, build samples for their portfolios, make professional contacts, and gain field-related references, leaving their summers free for camp. Many universities themselves offer internships, on-campus jobs, or research opportunities related to student majors.

But even beyond a university setting, 80% of employers offer fall/winter internships, and 78% offer spring internships compared to 84% of employers offering summer internships.6

A summer job at camp with a strong reference may even help a student land that internship. Case in point …

Camp jobs build resumes and hone skills.

One of the reasons to love camp is because of all the life skills to be gained. As counselors, they take that skill-building to a new level.

Davis, of Camp Stomping Ground, says it better than we can:

“It’s impossible to know what the economic landscape will look like 5 years from now, much less 20. Getting ready for the workplace these days means developing yourself. What no one tells you when you’re young is that most careers require extensive on-the-job training, and that very few specific skills you learn in high school or college will translate directly into the workplace. You know what will translate? Thinking creatively, adapting on the fly, taking initiative, learning how to better understand others, becoming individually responsible, and learning how to manage your time more effectively.”

But even beyond these intangibles, some camps today also provide students opportunities for college credit and technical experience, like accounting or book-keeping.7 As you talk with students concerned about these resume-builders, consider ways to help them gain experience or credit in their field—at camp.

You’re the experts when it comes to drawing young people into the wake of your enthusiasm. (There you go again, putting those life skills to work!) There’s nothing better for recruiting than that!

1Intern Queen blog
2KBIA: Summer Camp Counselors Are Disappearing, Though Not How You Might Think 
3NBC News: What Summer Job? Kids Would Rather Get a Foot in the Door at a Big Company
4College Recruiter: Fall 2017 College Recruitment Emerging Trends and Challenges
5Camp Stomping Ground: Convincing Your Parents That Working at Summer Camp is Good for Your Career
6Internships.com: 2014 Internship Trends
7NBC News: What Summer Job? Kids Would Rather Get a Foot in the Door at a Big Company