ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Teens across the state are now taking advantage of an executive order signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer earlier this month.
The order suspends many requirements of the Youth Employment Standards Act for would be employees and businesses who were having difficulty getting necessary documents from schools to employ students during the summer months.
In part, the order allows work permits to be mailed, emailed or faxed rather than filled out in person. School leaders say it’s working well and helping cut down on in person interactions.
“Before, the paperwork presented a challenge to make sure we could meet, sign that paperwork, still stay safe while we were doing that,” Allendale High School Principal Troy VanderLaan said. “Now we can do that online, and it’s very helpful.”
After the governor closed schools for the remainder of the school year, businesses found it difficult getting the paperwork they needed to employ high school students at a time when school leaders say the request for work permits has risen significantly.
“We always have a big uptake of work permits going into summer. So, May and really kind of early June, there’s a really big spike in our work permits where kids will fill out the paperwork they need and then we can release them off and they can work,” VanderLaan said. “Through the shutdown. We were still trying to do those in person and just recently we are now able to do those online, so we no longer have to meet. It’s safer this way.”
Two separate work permits exist for high school students, one for those between the ages of 16 and 17 and another for students between the age of 17 and 18.
Schools collect a copy, keep it on file and make sure to verify the student’s demographic records such as their age and address. VanderLaan says it’s part of an effort to make sure they’re fit to work in terms of academic standards.
But this year’s spike in permit requests was significantly larger, according to VanderLaan, he believes that’s thanks in part to the pandemic.
“I think really parents began to kind of feel some of the strain and economic pressures,” VanderLaan said. “In some cases, both parents were laid off. So what that did is that allowed our Falcons at Allendale High School to jump on a support measure for parents and grab work permits to help their families in some tangible way financially.”
Summer jobs typically include service sector jobs like fast food chains, amusement parks, golf courses and grocery stores. VanderLaan says he noticed a peculiar rise in nursing homes.
“I think about a week I signed three or four work permits for students going into support nursing homes,” VanderLaan said. “They’re going in to be aids and assistance in nursing homes. I can’t explain the spike, but I thought that was incredible given the circumstances with COVID-19.”
Such was the case for Maddeline Hosfelt, a junior at Allendale High School.
“I actually was looking for a job and I am a big fan of just helping others and I find joy in bringing others joy,” Hosfelt said. “This gave me an opportunity to do that and it’s definitely really rewarding to get out there and do it, to bring some happiness where people need it.”
Spending her summer as a dietary aide at Sunset Retirement Communities and Services.
“I kind of see myself as one of their grandchildren. I just try to make it as comfortable as possible, as if they’re just talking to a family member,” Hosfelt said. “I just want to make sure they get the love they’re kind of missing out on with their family right now. I knew I really wanted to help.”
Juggling her education online with employment amid an epidemic before the age of 18, thanks in part to the hiring process now simplified.
“It’s incredible to have a 16-year-old, 17-year-old young person think about all of those factors they have going on,” VanderLaan said. “That really will truly help all of us out to make sure that we’re progressing down the road down into the future to be stronger tomorrow together.”
The executive order went into effect earlier this month and extends until June 8.