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About 1 million Americans live at least part of the year in recreational vehicles, and a growing number are using their RVs as mobile work stations, according to an Associated Press report.
With many baby boomers now in their 50s, more are becoming “interested in the RV lifestyle and there’s a percentage of people who wouldn’t be able to afford it unless they were supplementing (their income) as they went,” says Greg Robus, owner of Workamper News, a magazine and website that matches RVers with employers.
The pairing of RV travelers and businesses has happened for a number of reasons. Generally, most of the workers are older, and sign up for jobs, in part to help pay for retirement and partly to do something they enjoy.
Employers, mostly seasonal businesses, increasingly see them as an untapped source of labor, often more experienced and reliable than the teens they’ve counted on in the past.
When Robus and his wife, Debbie, started their magazine in the late 1980s, it was eight pages of ads, stapled together. Now, the magazine’s six yearly issues sport a full-color cover and run to 64 pages. Every night, the couple e-mails fresh postings to about 10,000 subscribers.
“We need a friendly couple to start immediately,” says one listing, posted by the operator of a Texas campground. “Extra $$’s for extra hrs,” another ad says.
Most of the jobs on offer are from hotels, amusement parks and campgrounds. With the supply of seasonal workers limited in many rural areas, some employers have been working harder to draw RV-dwelling workers.
Last year, for example, Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) launched an incentive program designed to attract working campers, offering them free nights at member campgrounds as they motor between jobs, as well as discounts and sweepstakes drawings.
“Lots of them have been campers their whole lives so they know the clients,” said Hillary Mockel, human resources coordinator for KOA, which is based in Billings, Mont. “It really benefits us to have the mature worker.”
Managers at Adventureland, an amusement park outside Des Moines, Iowa, also have recruited RVers. Until five or six years ago, virtually all the park’s seasonal staffing was done locally, and was mostly younger workers.
This year, about 400 of the 900 employees are RVers, most in their 60s, a boon for a park that was increasingly competing with retailers, casinos and other businesses for local employees.
The older workers often arrive with an optimistic attitude and better work ethic than younger workers, said Steve Anderson, the park’s personnel director.