Morey’s Piers couldn’t open without international students

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Students from Thailand spend their last afternoon as Morey’s Piers employees at a company pool party at the Pan American Hotel. Students from Thailand spend their last afternoon as Morey’s Piers employees at a company pool party at the Pan American Hotel.

WILDWOOD — The rides on Morey’s Piers were quiet the day after the holiday weekend, but inside the lobby of the recruiting offices it was a different story.

Stacks of suitcases were piled high, every computer application station was occupied and staff members had their hands filled with visas and passports.

Nearby, fresh from spending over 20 hours in an airplane and a little over four hours in a New Jersey Transit bus, a group of international students from Macedonia and Slovakia were filling out the last of stack of forms before they got housing and, finally, some rest.

Early next day, they’ll start training and orientation as summer staff members, running games or rides, waiting on customers and dressing as costumed characters, or manning lifeguard stations at the waterpark.

The experience, they agreed, was a bit overwhelming, but above all exciting.

“This is my first time in America,” said Ivan Samvhel, 22, of Solvakia. “And from what I’ve seen already on the Boardwalk, it is really something.”

His fellow travelers, Jan Zakovic and Binh Phad, also from Solvakia, said that they decided on spending the break from their local university in the United States.

“We wanted a chance to experience life in America,” said Zakovic.

“And improve our English,” added Phad.

Samvhel said the trio decided to apply to Morey’s Piers because of its close proximity to Philadelphia, New York and Washington, D.C.

The group wants to have some free time to relax on the beach, sample a cheesesteak in Philadelphia, shop for electronics and spend a few days in Washington D.C. or New York City.

“We hope to earn enough money to do some traveling,” he said. “But right now, we are looking forward to the beach and the piers.”

Tankica Miteva and Irma Devaja, both from Macedonia, echoed the excitement about spending a summer working at the beach.

“We’ve never been to a place like this before,” said Devaja. “To be so close to the ocean is wonderful.”

As the new international students were checking in, a group from Thailand was spending one of their last afternoons as Morey’s Piers employees at a company pool party at the Pan American Hotel.

“We miss every group when they leave,” said Denise Beckson, director of operations and human recourses at Morey’s Piers.

“The fact of the matter is, without the international workforce, the piers wouldn’t be able to open,” she said. “We just don’t have enough local applicants to fulfill all the positions that we need.

“The state age-restricts a number of our positions,” she said and used the example that a 15-year-old couldn’t work as a lifeguard at a waterpark or even monitor guests at the top of a water slide.

“We do hire as many locals as we can, but most are in the age 14 to 17 and are restricted to what they can do,” she said.

“When we have job fairs locally, we’ve had maybe two hundred people show up maximum. It just isn’t enough. We have 1,500 jobs to fill,” Beckson added.

The international students are in their early 20s, must be in good standing with their university in order to take part in the program, have to pass an application process including an English aptitude interview and interview at the embassy.

According to Beckson said out of the 1,500 employees at Morey’s Piers, about half are students typically hired on seasonal J-1 visas.

A J-1 visa is issued for an exchange visitor who is participating in an established exchange sponsorship program pre-approved by the State Department. Exchange visitors under J-1 visas include secondary school and college students, business trainees, trainees in flight aviation programs, primary and secondary school teachers, college professors, research scholars, medical residents or interns receiving medical training in the U.S., certain specialists, international visitors, and government visitors. Like any other worker, the student will need a Social Security card, which has to be applied for 10-14 days after arrival in the country.

This year they kept to the norm and hired about 750 international students this season. Beckson said that the company recruited students from countries like Ukraine, Bulgaria, Jordan, Russia, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, among others.

Ten students were hired also from Nigeria, an emerging market, after impressing the recruiters in their online interviews, she added.

Beckson said Morey’s staggers its international workforce, so when one group is leaving to spend their summer paychecks on travel, another group is arriving. Each group spends about eight to 12 weeks in the country.

As soon as the piers close for the season, Beckson said the company begins traveling to recruit.

“We’re barely shut down and we’re off bringing people in again,” she said and noted that the whole process continues from October until March.

Beckson said she believes the company is doing a good job of remaining competitive

despite the economic situation.

“We are looking three to four years out in advance,” she said of the seasonal international staff. “And it helps to have a good international reputation and ours is very good. Word of mouth is great advertising for us overseas.”

In addition to making friends in other countries, Beckson said that the staff members learn things from each other.

“The students get the experience of what working and living here is like. They also get to see how Wildwood compares to other places in their travels,” she said. “And a lot are surprised by how friendly and helpful Americans can be.”

 

Lauren Suit can be e-mailed at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or you can comment on this story by calling 624-8900, ext 250.

 

Jan Zakovic, 27, Ivan Samvhel, 22, Binh Phad, 22, all from Slovakia, arrived in the Wildwoods on May 31 to work for Morey’s Piers.  Jan Zakovic, 27, Ivan Samvhel, 22, Binh Phad, 22, all from Slovakia, arrived in the Wildwoods on May 31 to work for Morey’s Piers.

Tankica Mateva, 20, Irma Devaja, 19, both from Macedoia, said that this was the first trip to the United States.  Tankica Mateva, 20, Irma Devaja, 19, both from Macedoia, said that this was the first trip to the United States.


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