Searching for Workers: NHS Students are having to pick up the slack


Freshman Ava Diamante hands a pizza to a customer. She is one of the many working NHS students.

Gabe Fryling and Maria Celis

The coffee shop on the square is closed. Your meal at Panera takes 20 minutes instead of five. Menu items crossed out. Fast food restaurants closing at 7:00 instead of 11:00. “Now Hiring” signs everywhere, from pizza places to grocery stores. This is the new normal.

COVID-19 changed the world more than anyone could imagine, but the vast workplace and employee shortages were unexpected. From coast to coast, consumers face a nationwide employee shortage with almost every business hiring. This shortage has caused those who are still working to pick up the slack, forcing them to be on the job for longer hours. This goes for students here at NHS, faced with employment that is much longer and tougher than pre-COVID.

“I really used to love working, I was able to personally connect with residents and coworkers there, but the staff has changed a lot in the past two years,” junior Alanna Riley said, who works at Northridge retirement home. “I only work most weekends but my shifts can be eight to ten hours long.”

It’s been tough almost everywhere according to employers, with workers moving in and out of jobs, trying to find one that is enjoyable and fits their needs. This employee shortage has caused many workers to think about whether they want to stay in their current positions.

“I only work on weekends, but it’s exhausting. About six hours in, all I want to do is go home,” Riley said. “I actually have been trying to quit, but since we’re so short on staff, I keep getting raises and bonuses, and that’s really the only reason why I still work there.”

Many managers have had to resort to increasing pay to keep people like Riley. These managers have also had to make tough decisions and sometimes resort to implementing hour requirements to make sure they are staffed at all times.

“I would like to work less and have more time with my friends, but they require us to work a minimum of four days a week. I’m also a leader, so I end up working more hours,” junior Leyna Yost said, who works in fast food here in Noblesville.

Working so much is common these days for most high schoolers with jobs, but balancing work, school and other activities can be difficult. 

“I like my job, but working a full week, four nights is tough when I’m taking harder classes this year for school,” junior Amanda Sochocki said, who also works in fast food here in Noblesville. . “I’m asked to pick up shifts, but I never feel obligated to. Sometimes I stay late though, but that’s also my choice.”

This is the case for many high school workers,  staying late or coming in early to help places that are short staffed. Workers are often asked to do more than they would’ve pre-COVID. This can range from social distancing to an entire job experience changing. 

“At one point we couldn’t even serve food in the dining room. We had to deliver meals to each resident,” Riley said. “Since the older people I work with are higher risk, we have taken COVID very seriously. Now we just continue to clean well and wear masks.”

Many employers like Riley’s are taking necessary precautions to keep their staff and customers safe. Businesses are staying cautious, sanitizing and cleaning tables, social distancing and wearing masks.

“If you think before [COVID], if someone had a cold or slight fever, sometimes we would tell them it’s ok to work, but now if they have a 100-degree fever, it’s an absolute ‘No’ or [if they] feel slightly under the weather, we don’t want them at the store,” said Josh King, the general manager at Crew Carwash in Noblesville. 

But despite all of this, businesses are still working to create a good environment for their employees. This can be tough, but for Jessica Page, a manager at Marco’s Pizza, she is working to create the best work experience possible for her employees.

“[We want to] create a fun positive environment and start to raise wages,” Page said. 

Increasing employee pay and adding more benefits are some of the other things businesses are adding to encourage people to work. There are also many benefits in the long run for having a job, says King.

“One, to learn how to balance a work and school life, especially if you have sports. And learning how to balance all of that together is not just a part of high school, that’ll carry on into college and throughout your life,” King said.

King says the lessons taught by having a job in high school can be useful in every aspect of a student’s life, from learning how to deal with money as a cashier to picking up customer service tips as a waiter. Having a job can also help you learn more about yourself and your future, says King.

“Being able to find what type of job you like will also help what you’ll want to do later in life,” King saidSome NHS students have found that jobs can help build relationships with coworkers. These coworkers can become good friends that are seen multiple times a week.

“I would tell [people without jobs] that working is fun, and it’s a great opportunity to meet new people as well as to get experience for future jobs,” junior Cody Bozell said.

Bozell is not the only one to encourage those who don’t have a job to get one. Riley believes it’s a great opportunity to learn about the real world while making some money. 

“Now is a great time to get a job, everywhere is hiring and paying well too. Having a job sometime during high school is super important,” said Riley. “I have learned so much from having a couple different jobs, and it can be fun especially if you make friends wherever you work.”