Hiring Maine Camp Staff: Outreach Efforts Pitch Broad Benefits of a Summer Camp Job

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UMF Hosts Camp Job Fair

A wide corridor at the Olsen Student Center at the University of Maine at Farmington served as more than a student thoroughfare on Monday. Instead, a collaboration between Maine Summer Camps and the UMF Career Center brought a job fair to the passageway, giving scores of students the chance to learn about summer job opportunities at more than 30 Maine camps. Directors and leaders from camps across the state described their programs, their staffing needs, and the many perks of a summer sharing skills and guiding children.

Organizers see connecting camps and college students – UMF’s education majors among them – as a natural fit. UMF Career Counselor Cyndi McShane joined forces with Maine Summer Camps Executive Director Ron Hall in bringing camp personnel to Farmington. Connecting students with camps is a “natural alignment,” McShane said. Students’ career goals often focus on service-oriented careers, she said, those involving “learning and doing things.”

Steve Davis, another UMF career counselor, called camp positions “a great summer option” for career preparation, education or otherwise.

One camp in attendance was UMF junior Ally Hobbs, a Camp Runoia counselor.  An elementary education major, Hobbs said that Camp Runoia’s location, community, and learning opportunities present all the elements of an ideal summer job.

Camp is “friendship-centered,” Hobbs said. Living with kids helps develop behavior management skills, she said, and equally valuable are the leadership abilities learned on the job. All these components will be an asset in the classroom post-graduation, she said. Then there is the unquestionable value of campers living in nature, Hobbs added, unplugged from all technology. Girls’ connections and conversations benefit from the total absence of devices and screens, she said.

Molly vanBragt represented Camp Matoaka, a girls’ camp in Smithfield. Staffing challenges tend to vary, she said. Some of the positions requiring a high level of skill and experience in a particular area – such as horseback riding, archery, and sailing – can be difficult to fill, vanBragt acknowledged. But being at the job fair offered the chance to meet students with the interest and ability to join their staff. Camp Matoaka serves more than 300 girls per session; its staff tops 100.

Camp Susan Curtis Director Terri Mulks

Near the coastal communities of Camden and Belfast sits Hidden Valley Camp, a coed camp. Staffing Coordinator Hannah Brehaut made the trip to Farmington and by the conclusion of the job fair had a new staff member lined up. The new hire is a certified wilderness EMT and will be part of an adventure trip program, Brehaut said.

Camp Susan Curtis Director Terri Mulks was also optimistic about the chance to connect with students. The camp’s relationship with UMF is longstanding, she said. “Their customer service is exemplary.


A Southern Maine Job Event

Maine Summer Camps also teamed up with the University of Southern Maine this week, with a job fair at the Glickman Library. In a seventh-floor conference room, camps once again displayed their wares and discussed job opportunities with interested students.

Among the camp directors was Taryn Friedman, who co-owns and operates Mad Science, a camp that operates programs in dozens of Southern Maine locations, both as afterschool, vacation week, and summer programs. The science-based, hands-on programming does not necessarily demand trained science educators, Friedman said. “We train them.” Rather, she said that she seeks staff with some experience working with kids, “skills to connect,” and the practical necessity of a vehicle to travel to camp sites.

West End House Girls Camp, in Parsonsfield, is young – established in 2011 to serve girls, alongside the long-established West End House Boys Camp, both on the shores of Long Pond. WEHGC Enrollment Manager Betsy Brown visited with students at UMF and, like many camp personnel, returned the following day to USM. Education majors are always appealing, Brown said, and both days yielded positive interest.


So, Why a Camp Job?

Camp Wawenock, a girls’ camp in Raymond, offers a vast array of programs at its property on the shores of Sebago Lake. Camp leadership – Co-Director Andy Sangster, along with Assistant Director Kristy Andrews – attended both the UMF and USM job fairs. Along with their personal contact with students, the two offered a brief written summary of the benefits of a Wawenock job. Transferable skills – communication, collaboration, conflict resolution and problem solving, for example – as well as opportunities for self-discovery, training and feedback are among the many such benefits they tout.

Camp Wawenock Co-Director Catriona Sangster pictured here with her family.

Yet hiring can sometimes be challenging, says Camp Wawenock Co-Director Catriona Sangster. Sometimes camps face natural cycles in staff vacancies, such as when long-time staffers move on after graduating from college, she says. But in recent years young adults have begun to face a shift in pressures as they progress through college, she says. The promotion of internships as preferred summer work means young women who might spend another season at Camp Wawenock – a season in which they would gain broad and professionally applicable leadership skills – choose to end their camp tenure.

Catriona Sangster says she may gather input from alumni who are now in professional roles, with an eye toward identifying the many benefits of their camp staff experiences in their own career preparation. An enduring challenge, however, is that while kids may buy in, “will the greater public?”

A summer at a Maine camp also enables qualified young adults to share their expertise in specific areas. Just as Camp Matoaka’s vanBragt pointed out, the Camp Wawenock leadership team says teaching activities such as horseback riding, racing sailing, and archery all demand advanced skill sets. Often counselors who teach those skills have been long-time campers, well-equipped to pass their knowledge on, says Catriona Sangster.

But not all camp jobs demand advanced skills from incoming staff. Many camps train and certify their staff in a variety of areas, such as lifeguarding and trip safety. In addition, Maine camps universally require staff to participate in intensive and thorough training programs prior to campers’ arrival.

When Maine camp leaders met with UMF and USM students earlier this week, those students had the chance to explore summer job options that, in the words of UMF Career Counselor Steve Davis, “dovetail” with their academic pursuits.

Melding interest and ability, and living a daily dedication to children, Maine camp staff encounter thousands of youngsters, from near and far. These communities of leaders, counselors, and children, in locations across the state, foster learning not only for campers, but for the adults who guide, teach, and support them.

As camp leadership teams continue their summer hiring efforts – several lined up interviews with students they met this week – they will enthusiastically promote the many ways camp jobs enhance both personal and professional development. Just as Ally Hobbs from UMF and Camp Runoia described, there are both challenges and rewards to working at a camp. Taken as a whole, those challenges and rewards offer personal fulfillment – lifelong friends, the joy of being a role model, time in nature – and a long list of developing skills relevant to a full range of professional undertakings.


Maine Summer Camps Launches Online Camp Jobs Listing

Maine Summer Camps, the Portland-based nonprofit serving youth camps statewide, is an integral resource for not only its camp and business members, but also parents and families in search of Maine camps. MSC broadened its reach this winter by launching a job listing on its website. Dozens of camps have utilized the site to post a full range of available positions.

More than 100 job listings have been posted by a total of 49 Maine youth camps. Job seekers can check out the site at https://mainecamps.org/summer-camp-jobs/


NEXT WEEK:  How an internship at a Maine camp provides applicable professional experience.






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