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Chris Ray, 19, rearranges a sales display at the front of the Vilseck, Germany, commissary Tuesday. A veteran of the commissary agency's student hire program, Ray decided to stick with the work after graduation this year and now has a part-time position at the store.
Chris Ray, 19, rearranges a sales display at the front of the Vilseck, Germany, commissary Tuesday. A veteran of the commissary agency's student hire program, Ray decided to stick with the work after graduation this year and now has a part-time position at the store. (Ben Murray / S&S)
Chris Ray, 19, rearranges a sales display at the front of the Vilseck, Germany, commissary Tuesday. A veteran of the commissary agency's student hire program, Ray decided to stick with the work after graduation this year and now has a part-time position at the store.
Chris Ray, 19, rearranges a sales display at the front of the Vilseck, Germany, commissary Tuesday. A veteran of the commissary agency's student hire program, Ray decided to stick with the work after graduation this year and now has a part-time position at the store. (Ben Murray / S&S)
Tim Ray, 14, stocks bananas in the produce department at the Vilseck, Germany, commissary Tuesday. Tim, one of the younger workers taking advantage of the commissary agency’s student hire program, has worked at the store for a little less than a year.
Tim Ray, 14, stocks bananas in the produce department at the Vilseck, Germany, commissary Tuesday. Tim, one of the younger workers taking advantage of the commissary agency’s student hire program, has worked at the store for a little less than a year. (Ben Murray / S&S)

VILSECK, Germany — In an effort to attract more young workers and add needed manpower to European stores, officials at the top of the Defense Commissary Agency-Europe food chain are dangling a carrot in front of teenagers this summer: money.

Upping the ante in its bid for student employees, the agency in late June implemented a plan to change the way it hires student workers, allowing them to earn between $2 to $5 more per hour than they traditionally could, DECA-Europe officials said this week.

The move, a modification of the DECA-Europe long-running student employment program, is designed to put commissaries on more equal footing with other on-post stores trawling the teenage applicant pool, said Geraldine Young, a spokeswoman for the agency.

Teenagers can now earn from $7.67 to $10.27 hourly as a cashier and store worker, respectively, up from the $5.14 per hour wage allowed under the old payment structure, said Dana Nickless, director of the Vilseck commissary.

Now all the agency needs is for kids to apply for the jobs, DECA-Europe officials said.

Currently, there are only a handful of students involved in the Student Temporary Employment Program, and even current STEP employees will have to re-apply for jobs to earn the new wage, said the DECA-Europe human resources chief, Eleanor Richardson.

Commissary administrators are charged with making sure current workers put in for the pay raises, Nickless said, but money shouldn’t be all that attracts students to STEP. Many of the intangibles of the jobs — close supervision in a first job for many and an early taste of working for a government agency — are valuable parts of the program, Nickless said.

Student employees at the Vilseck commissary Tuesday said the work at the stores is reasonable and that commissary jobs, even before the pay raises, were generally regarded as decent part-time employment by many teens.

“It’s good work,” said Ralf Schopf, 17, a deli worker in Vilseck. Because Schopf isn’t a U.S. citizen, he isn’t eligible for the new rates in the revised STEP, but said that didn’t deter him from staying at the store.

“I’ve got a job, so I’m happy,” he said.

To be eligible for the new STEP positions, students must be between 16 and 23 years old, be a U.S. citizen or family member and maintain a C average at an accredited school. Students as young as 14 can work in the stores, but are not eligible for the new rates, Nickless said.

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