Sum­mer’s work­force a unit­ing of na­tions

In­ter­na­tional stu­dents in U.S. on visas help fill job open­ings

Albany Times Union - Sunday - - BUSINESS - By Eric An­der­son

Help wanted signs still dot win­dows of shops in Lake Ge­orge, Saratoga Springs and other area re­sort com­mu­ni­ties.

But lo­cal of­fi­cials say job fairs and a stu­dent visa pro­gram have gone a long way to meet demand.

“We have many em­ploy­ers who go through the J-1 in­ter­na­tional stu­dent pro­gram,” said Gina Mintzer, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Lake Ge­orge Re­gional Cham­ber of Com­merce and Con­ven­tion and Vis­i­tors Bureau.

The pro­gram brings over­seas stu­dents and young adults to the United States to work. Lo­cal res­i­dents also are fill­ing po­si­tions.

“My col­leagues here say peo­ple are walk­ing in daily look­ing for jobs,” Mintzer added. “Peo­ple are fully staffed. Jobs are be­ing filled.”

With a cap on H-2B visas, which also sup­ply sea­sonal work­ers, the J-1 stu­dents are crit­i­cal to meet­ing la­bor needs.

“The la­bor sup­ply is ad­e­quate with the in­flux of the J-1 stu­dents,” said Lake Ge­orge Mayor Robert Blais.

He es­ti­mates the pro­gram, which the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion con­sid­ered cut­ting last year, brought 1,500 to 1,800 stu­dents to the Lake Ge­orge

area this sea­son.

“Most of them work two jobs,” Blais said. “They fill most of the en­try-level jobs.”

At Six Flags Great Es­cape theme park, 1,500 jobs needed to be filled. Rebecca Wood, theme park di­rec­tor of mar­ket­ing and sales, said that while the J-1 pro­gram makes up less than 20 per­cent of its em­ploy­ees, “th­ese out­stand­ing col­lege stu­dents from 12 dif­fer­ent coun­tries are an im­por­tant part of our team and help to sup­ple­ment our work­force, specif­i­cally be­fore school lets out and af­ter school be­gins in the fall.”

Stu­dents come from eastern Europe, Asia, Nige­ria, Ja­maica and other Caribbean na­tions.

“Without them, we’d be lost,” Blais said. “Many of our re­sorts would not be able to open in May or stay open in Septem­ber.”

High school stu­dents typ­i­cally aren’t avail­able to work un­til late June and col­lege stu­dents of­ten re­turn to class be­fore La­bor Day, leav­ing large at­trac­tions such as Six Flags seek­ing other work­ers.

They’ll con­sider re­tirees and even vis­i­tors to fill gaps on a tem­po­rary ba­sis.

“We al­ways look for ways to rein­vent our re­cruit­ing ap­proach,” said Wood of Six Flags. “Whether it be work­ing with lo­cal se­nior cen­ters, trav­el­ing Rv-ers, or us­ing the lat­est tech­nol­ogy like text re­cruit­ing and live-re­sponse chat rooms for ap­pli­cants, our team has had to ap­proach ... the ever-chang­ing em­ploy­ment land­scape” in in­no­va­tive ways.

The J-1 can­di­dates are at­trac­tive to em­ploy­ers for a num­ber of rea­sons.

“We’re find­ing most are work­ing on their mas­ter’s de­grees al­ready,” said Stephanie Fre­goe, who is in­volved in the Lake Ge­orge Re­gion Stu­dent Con­nec­tion, a pro­gram that of­fers sup­port and guid­ance to newly ar­rived stu­dents. “Some are go­ing to school to be doc­tors or teach­ers.”

Last year, New York state em­ploy­ers hosted 31,530 J-1 stu­dents, ac­cord­ing to U.S. State Depart­ment fig­ures.

Par­tic­i­pants come to the United States to im­prove their lan­guage skills, earn money to send back home, and see the United States.

Some may re­main on the job into Oc­to­ber.

While Six Flags may be the largest sin­gle em­ployer of J-1 vis­i­tors, ho­tels, restau­rants and other tourist at­trac­tions also de­pend on them. While some with weak lan­guage skills might be em­ployed as house­keep­ers or cham­ber­maids, those with stronger lan­guage skills may staff front desks or work as wait­ers.

It’s not clear what the fu­ture holds for the J-1 visa. Ef­forts to re­strict im­mi­gra­tion con­tinue at the na­tional level. In the Glens Falls area, the un­em­ploy­ment rate in May hit an 11-year low for the month of 4.0 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to state La­bor Depart­ment data.

Blais said some stu­dents who had pre­vi­ously worked in the vil­lage couldn’t get visas this year. “But there seems to be as many or more than in the past,” the mayor said.

Pho­tos by Skip Dick­stein / Times Union

Six Flags Great Es­cape theme park in Lake Ge­orge, which filled 1,500 jobs, em­ploys col­lege stu­dents from 12 coun­tries. Cap­i­tal Re­gion ho­tels, restau­rants and other tourist at­trac­tions also hire in­ter­na­tional em­ploy­ees.

In­ter­na­tional stu­dents in the United States on visa help keep the rides, in­clud­ing the Greezed Light­nin’, go­ing at the Six Flags Great Es­cape theme park in Lake Ge­orge. Vil­lage Mayor Robert Blais says his com­mu­nity’s la­bor sup­ply is ad­e­quate with the in­flux of stu­dents in this coun­try through the J-1 in­ter­na­tional stu­dent pro­gram.

Cindy Schultz / Times union ar­chive

Ho­tels on Canada Street in Lake Ge­orge em­ploy col­lege stu­dents who are in the united States with J-1 visas.

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