Silverwood Theme Park has upped its starting hourly wage from $11 to $15 in an attempt to attract summer workers, a cohort that may be hesitant to get back to work as the country tries to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s kind of a nationwide thing. It’s really hard to hire people right now,” said Jordan Carter, Silverwood’s director of marketing.
The park usually employs about 1,500 people each year for its season, which began Saturday. Boulder Beach water park opens over Memorial Day weekend, and both parks begin daily operations in mid-June that will last through early September.
To run the rides, feed the guests and provide lifeguards in swimming areas, Silverwood draws upon both North Idaho and Eastern Washington for workers, Carter said. That means some employees have to commute up to an hour in the summer, and the park wants to pay wages that will bring in workers willing to make that drive.
“We want Silverwood to be a place that people really, really want to work,” he said. Other perks of the job include free entry into the parks, and passes for friends and family for each period of 30 hours a person works, he said.
The increase in hourly wages will mean a slight increase in the gate admission price this year, and the park will work with vendors to determine food and drink costs, Carter said. Promotions will run through the month of May that offer discounted entry, including a $19.88 entry fee on the first weekend in commemoration of the park’s opening 33 years ago.
The $15/hour wage, which increases slightly for lifeguards and those 19 and up serving alcohol, is more than double Idaho’s minimum hourly wage requirement, the same rate as the federal minimum wage. It’s $1.31 hourly more than this year’s mandated minimum wage in Washington state, which will be changed annually in the future to account for inflation.
Teenage employment had already taken a hit prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a 2019 report by the Pew Research Center. About one in three 16- to 19-year-olds in the United States reported being employeda during the summer of 2018, down from a peak of 58% in the late 1970s. Restaurants and hospitality businesses have reported widespread difficulty in attracting workers, and some have attributed it to the increased availability of unemployment benefits as part of federal coronavirus assistance packages. Many help wanted websites are inundated with postings for jobs that had gone away during the pandemic, including cooks and servers.
Silverwood will hold a job fair at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds on May 15 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Applicants must be at least 14 years old, and other age requirements apply to certain jobs.
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