As economy sizzles, employers think globally

Monday, September 4th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WILDWOOD, N.J.-In the arcades, amusement parks and motels of the Jersey shore, foreign exchange students like Tina Overmark are considered a godsend.

They work hard, they're reliable and they fill thousands of seasonal jobs for which there aren't enough local applicants. Never are they appreciated as much as on Labor Day, when shore businesses face a busy three-day weekend with depleted work forces.

"What's great about it is that they stay late," said Judy Mazzotta, an office worker at the Rio Grande Motel. "We've lost so many of our American kids already. If weren't for foreign students, we'd have a manager sitting out at the pool working as a lifeguard."

The young people, who flock here each summer from Ireland, England and elsewhere in western Europe, stay on the job through the summer's final holiday weekend because they often don't begin college classes until late September or early October.

American collegians, by contrast, typically quit summer jobs before Labor Day because classes _ and school orientations _ begin earlier for them.

Overmark, of Lapua, Finland, began work in June as a chambermaid at the Rio Grande. By night, she works on kiddie rides at Morey's Pier. She will work both jobs through Tuesday.

Then, after a three-day stop in New York, she'll return to Scotland and the University of Glasgow, where she is a second-year biology student.

"It's just something different to do," she said Thursday, stopping to talk to a visitor as she cleaned Room 162. "I'd never been in the States before and this was a way to come."

It's a route that has been taken by thousands. Attracted by plentiful jobs and the chance to visit the United States, young Europeans obtain work visas and spend the summer working jobs as carnival barkers, waitresses, ride operators and chambermaids.

In New Jersey, about 1,400 signed up to work in the Wildwoods and Cape May alone this summer, according to officials at the Social Security Administration office in Rio Grande, N.J., where students obtained Social Security cards allowing them to work.

"In June and July, we get 60 to 80 of them a day in here," said Delton Brooks, district manager of the Social Security Administration. "They're very ambitious kids, from what we hear. They're always there and they're dependable."

The Morey Organization, which runs two water parks and an amusement pier, hired 600 foreign students this summer, or 60 percent of its 1,000-person summer work force.

"The biggest reason is availability," said Geoff Rogers, director of operations. "The economic situation in the U.S. is pretty strong. Lots of kids in this day and age don't need jobs and those who do don't want to work a lot of hours. So we have to go out."

At least once a year, the company sends a recruiter to Europe to advertise summer jobs in the states. Word of mouth also attracts globe-hopping workers.

"One of me mates did it last year and he said he had the time of his life, so here I am," said Gaz Weaver, 20, of Liverpool, England, a lifeguard at Raging Waters.

Weaver, who arrived here in June, will work through mid-September before returning to Chester College in northwest England, where he studies computer science.

"They really appreciate the fact that we stay through Labor Day," Weaver said.

Morey's also makes it worth their while. The company puts $1 aside for each hour the seasonal employees work. If they stay on the job through Labor Day, they can collect the bonus. Weaver expects his to be about $350.

"It makes a huge difference," said Denise Beckson, operations manager at Raging Waters. "If it weren't for them, we'd have difficulty opening all the attractions this weekend because we wouldn't have enough people."


On the Net:

eduPASS' Guide to Studying in the U.S.

Carnegie Mellon University's foreign student links

Association for International Practical Training