Could teens be the answer to Hawaii’s labor shortage? Some businesses are betting on it

Tina Yamaki of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii says businesses have always hired teens, but...
Tina Yamaki of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii says businesses have always hired teens, but never have they targeted a specific age group in job postings.(Hawaii News Now)
Published: Apr. 8, 2022 at 8:14 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A post-pandemic business boom has Hawaii companies desperate for workers — so much so that they’re getting creative about who they target.

Tina Yamaki, president of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii, says businesses have always hired teens but never have they tried to appeal to younger potential applicants than they are now.

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

She said it’s because there’s still a major worker shortage statewide.

“And we’re finding out that workers are really picky on where they’re working,” Yamaki said. “They’re looking at what is the corporate culture? Do they care about me? They want to be heard.”

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

But right now, they’re still not seeing a high volume of applicants.

Staffing remains a challenge at the retail shop Homegrown.

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

They’ve always been opened to working with teens and are currently looking to fill three positions.

“In the past, there was always a strong emphasis on looking for candidates that had customer service experience, retailing experience, but that has changed,” Bedder said. “What we look for, and I think what’s most important is for candidates that have values that are in alignment with ours.”

Roseann Vierra-Schoening, manager of T&C Surf at Pearlridge Center, said they are gearing up for summer hiring. “We’re looking for stock, we’re looking for cashiers,” said Vierra-Schoening. “We’re looking for natural salespeople, and also manager trainee positions as well.”

But there’s an extra challenge, she said they need someone who will be committed to working weekends.

“So a lot of kids might want their weekends off, but we do ask that they give at least one of those days for the weekend, if not both,” said Vierra-Schoening.

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