A common challenge for summer camp administrators in 2021 was staff recruitment and hiring. This is not surprising, since there is a labor shortage across the country. According to the Washington Post in September, “There are currently 10 million job openings, yet more than 8.4 million unemployed are still actively looking for work.” There have been several hypotheses for what is causing this shortage, from excessive government benefits to low minimum wage and even a general change in how Americans view work. 

Regardless of the reason, the shortage has affected everyone across the board, especially summer camps, since they typically have a high volume of seasonal positions to fill in a short period of time. In addition, many camps were hit hard financially by the pandemic and have limited funds to invest into recruitment and hiring. The recruitment and hiring team at the Everglades Youth Conservation Camp (EYCC) experienced the same challenges. 

Here are some general tips for recruitment and hiring on a budget that enabled us to have most of our summer positions filled (about 30) by March 2021. 

Tip 1: Do Job Posting Prep Work First

You will want to have ready the following before your job posts go live:

  • Detailed, yet concise job description with language that will attract your desired applicant type

  • Email templates to send to applicants

  • A list of free or low-cost websites for employers and people seeking employment (indeed.com is one we used)

  • An employer profile that can be used on these job sites 

We also secure returning staff by December so that we have an idea of how many positions need to be filled with new staff in the spring. Doing the prep work in the fall will help you to focus your time on monitoring your postings, contacting applicants, and interviewing. Less time will be wasted on composing emails, searching for free sites, contacting school personnel, and trying to contact returning staff. 

Tip 2: Start Early

At EYCC, we try to get our prep work done by the end of December so that our job postings can go live in January. Believe it or not, many college students start looking for summer jobs very early despite most summer job career fairs being offered in March or April. We hire most of our staff members before March, so it is worth posting jobs early. This also gives enough time to make additional job posts or change a current one if it is not gaining enough traction. 

Tip 3: A Quick Response Is Key  

College students are typically the most common group that summer camps hire, and they can be a challenging group to recruit. If we have learned anything about recruiting college students, it is that a quick response to their application is imperative. When we asked our staff members this past summer about our recruitment process, one of the major reasons they decided to work for us was our fast application response. 

Our suggestion to camp recruitment and hiring managers is to check postings frequently, especially the ones that get high traffic like indeed.com. Our hiring manager left the Indeed profile open on her computer and checked it every one to two hours as she worked throughout the day. If a good applicant came along, she would call them immediately or send them an email if they did not answer. 

More Tips at the Staffing Summit

This information is just the tip of the iceberg (pun intended) of helpful discoveries we have made for recruitment and hiring on a budget. We have more recruitment secrets to share, such as what makes a good job description, how to keep an applicant on the line once they’ve applied, how to avoid recruitment headaches, and much more. We will be sharing this knowledge in detail during our upcoming virtual presentation for the ACA Virtual Staffing Summit on November 16, 2021, from 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. We hope to see you there! 

Not yet registered for the ACA Staffing Summit, November 16–17, 2021? Learn more and register.

This blog was written on behalf of Project Real Job’s efforts to help camps recruit, hire, and retain staff.

Devyn Hamann has a BA in Biology. She has been a camper at the Everglades Youth Conservation Camp since she was eight years old. In 2014 she started summer employment at the EYCC as a group leader. After completing her BA degree in May of 2020, Devyn assumed the role as the year-round assistant director at the camp.

Janice Kerber has been a classroom teacher for 20 years and has been in the camping industry for most of her adult life. Janice has been the director at the Everglades Youth Conservation Camp for 16 years and currently serves on the Southeastern Local Council of Leaders.


Long, H., Fowers, A., & Van Dam, A. (2021, September 4). Why America has 8.4 million unemployed when there are 10 million job openings. The Washington Post. Retrieved October 20, 2021 from washingtonpost.com/business/2021/09/04/ten-million-job-openings-labor-shortage/

Photo courtesy of Camp John Marc in Dallas, Texas