Every year I receive an inquiry from either a parent or a new staff member "...is this seriously my salary?" I usually respond by going through the reasons for our pay structure, the nature of partial volunteerism and the scouting program and of course the added benefits such as opportunities for merit badges, life skills, etc. Of course this is usually countered with, "Well I (he) could make more money if just stayed and worked at home." My response is yes.....you (he) could, what were you expecting? If pay was a key factor, why I am I hearing about it now? We usually tell all our new, young, staff candidates during their interviews that the pay is not great.....it doesn't seem to be an issue with them. Then again, most of them are so nervous it probably doesn't come up or if it does, they may have been too intimidated to say anything.
For those of you who have not worked at CP in the past, let me tell you how we roughly stage the pay schedule. You become salaried if you are selected for the staff and are 16 years of age or older. We have 15 year olds work for us, we do not pay them except, of course, room and board and maybe a few other things. First year 16 y/o staff members are at the bottom of the pay scale and to be blunt, they will not break 3 figures by the end of the season; the same could be said for returning second year staff members although they will see a modest increase in their salary. Outside of that, the decision for pay comes down to a) Age, b) Experience on staff, c) Position on staff, d) Professional qualifications for their positions and, e) How much we really need or want a particular individual. We try to be fair and uniform in our process and for the most part we are. Still, it usually is far less than what one would desire and certainly less than if a staff member spent the summer bagging groceries at QFC.
I am very sensitive to this fact and we constantly look at ways we can increase our pay for our younger staff. The council is slowly getting it as we have seen a slight upward tic with regards to our budgeted salaries. However regardless what happens, everyone who works at Camp Parsons must realize that they are here for more than just the pay. Ask most of our veteran staff members (seven years plus on staff) and they will tell you that it is the place where they love to work even despite the "crappy" pay. Of course to be honest, we have been diligent to increase some of our senior staff pay to a point where it is substantial when you take several things into consideration. Some of these considerations are also the hidden benefits that all staff members and their parents may share in.
There are many "hidden" benefits about working at camp other than being able to earn merit badges if you are still under 18. The monetary benefits include less gas money as staff members seldom wander far during the week and spend less on personal items like going out with friends to a fast food joint, movies, etc. If you do work at home and your parents are not subsidizing you, how much does a teenager spend during a week? I can tell you it is lot less at camp than at home. For parents; your car stays in the garage, safe and sound. Your gas bills will go down and you will not be feeding your son's friends as much as you do the rest of the year. One dad told me that the biggest shock was how little he and his wife would have to go to the store once their son starting working at camp. Alluding to some of the above benefits....parents, if you do subsidize your teenage scout son (allowing him to use the car, gas, spending money, etc.) you need to subtract that from the money he would be pulling in from QFC to make a fair comparison to camp. All these benefits are different from the obvious ones; learning of life skills, living independently, being held to a schedule where mom and dad aren't the ones keeping them on the schedule. There are a lot of personal benefits which I have touted in numerous previous posts.
So yes, the pay is not great and I for one keep trying to do something about it. However, don't toss minimum wage around......if that is the case, then I will toss room and board around, put electric meters on each cabin and charge for usage (and you really, really, really don't want to see what our staff uses. Middle of the day; lights on, heater on, radio on, little refrigerator on....and no one is home). We could charge for merit badges as we would have to supply the counselors just like we do for scouts who pay to come to camp. I can nickel and dime this but why........as I said before, scouts do not sign up to be on staff for the money. I respect my staff and Ken and I as well others go out of our way to make sure that our staff have an enjoyable time at camp by having special meals, taking them water skiing or inner tubing, protecting their free time and will always be there to write a letter of recommendation or give a good word for other employers. I could show you the money, but it won't be a lot.