A Prior Lake restaurant is taking a unique approach to hiring help after discovering that finding seasonal workers is easier said than done sometimes.
The problem: The window for work is longer than the time more students looking for summer jobs are out of school. The solution: Find international students on a different schedule.
"I get a lot of joy watching them," said Karen Sweet, co-owner of Captain Jack's. "Watching the Americans interacting, watching the students discovering new things and thinking the silliest things for us are real cool."
College students are the backbone of Minnesota's tourism and hospitality industry, but it can be difficult to find those who don't live on the Memorial Day-to-Labor Day schedule. In fact, there are job fairs in foreign countries that address that problem by matching up workers with U.S. businesses, including many resorts and restaurants. That gives ambitious young adults from across the globe a chance to visit America to work hard and play hard.
At Captain Jack's on Prior Lake, the sound of summer has a bit of an accent. Johnny Korista is a 23-year-old student from Slovakia, one of roughly two dozen seasonal hires from Eastern Europe.
"I'm going to travel to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Diego, San Francisco and New York," Korista said.
The students were recruited as part of a U.S. State Department work and travel program that grants a 90-day work visa followed by 30 days of travel.
"We started looking into it and researching it and thought, 'Boy, this kind of makes sense. What a cool opportunity to help with the global consciousness and help educate people and share different cultures with Prior Lake," Sweet said.
The decision was also made easier by the fact that the lakeside bar and restaurant was having a difficult time filling its roster.
"The timing is such that [the American college students] didn't come back until May. Our season starts sometimes … in March," Sweet said.
That meant Captain Jack's couldn't open their patio because they didn't have the staff to serve customers there, so they started looking for new staffing solutions.
Korista told FOX 9 News getting used to speaking a new language has been the most difficult adjustment to working in Minnesota, but a lot of the customers get a kick out of it.
"We've had people come in and speak Slovak to our servers and think it's amazing," Sweet said. "They talk about their culture and they say, 'What are you doing here?'"
Sweet insisted that the program hasn't taken away any jobs from local kids. Instead, it provides an opportunity for young people from across the world to share some similar experiences -- like the social outings the eatery organized to Valleyfair, Mall of America and Minnesota Twins games.