Worker shortage threatens summer camps


(NewsNation) — Summer camp enrollment is booming, and many camps are trying to make a comeback after a harsh pandemic.

But with a current employee shortage, it may not be possible.

School’s out for most, and the summer season is in. That means camp — an educational, adventurous experience and a relief for so many parents — is back.

“There’s a lot of stuff to do. And, there’s a lot of learning stuff to do,” said excited camper Nathan Torres.

Nathan’s dad Jason Torres was grateful they signed him up early, “We both work, so we need somewhere to put them before school.”

The industry is booming. More than 26 million children across the nation have already enrolled in summer camp. Even some camps have waiting lists.

“I think there will be some frustration, and I think the frustration will be more from our returning families, who in the past have been able to register late,” said Camp Watchaug camp director Danita Ballantyne.

But a staffing shortage is forcing some camps to now cancel and others to reduce to their hours: a growing disaster for many working parents.

“Most camps are doing their very best to operate at whatever scale they can, and some camps, I’ve heard isolated stories of some camps not operating at all. This is a catastrophic situation,” said President and CEO of the American Camp Association Tom Rosenberg.

Summer camps have already struggled the last two years during the pandemic. In 2020, more than 80% of sleepover camps and more than 60% of daytime camps closed. Some camps shut down for good due to severe financial stress.

Hiring expert Casey Hastin blames the great resignation. Camp counselors are now applying to other jobs. In an effort to keep staff, some camp organizations are even increasing pay.

“50% more to camp coordinators than 2019, and also there is another one that was offering 20% more, and offering a sign-on bonus. This is the same place. They got two applicants,” said Hastin.

Parents should expect to see higher costs for camp this year — up to 10% to 15% — to offset inflation and the costs to keep camp counselors.

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