Seacamp Association, Inc – Big Pine Key, FL
Seacamp is a unique, nonprofit, marine science education facility located in the Florida Keys. The Marketing Assistant will project a professional… Seacamp Association, Inc
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“Don't be fooled by the glamorous reviews and the location, this really isn't a great place to work. ”
- Comp & Benefits
- Work/Life Balance
- Senior Management
- Culture & Values
- Career Opportunities
I worked at Seacamp Association as a contractor (less than an year)Pros
- Being able to SCUBA dive
- Snorkeling near coral reefs (although believe it or not, when you do it every day even this can get tiring after awhile)
- You get to drive boats, which is pretty awesome
- Getting the extra certifications is definitely nice
- Campers and friendly and polite (most of the time, don't always count on it though)Cons
Let's start with the salary. Sure, they provide you with housing, food, certifications, temporary medical coverage and such (although even these were pretty iffy, more on that later). In reality, they pay you as a contract employee so they can get away with paying an abysmal $12 a day for waterfront staff and $15 a day to science instructors. What is even more cringe worthy is in order to get to the $15 a day mark (Ie, to be a science instructor), you need to have a bachelors degree in the biological or natural sciences. You can quite literally get a part time job flipping burgers at McDonalds, live at home and still make way better money per day then you would at this place.
Now let's talk about something that really irks me about Seacamp. They do not have a washer and dryer on the property, and the nearest laundromat is on Key West, which is a 45 minute drive (and most people took a bus to get here or were flown in, so a lot of staff members do not have access to a car). They pay very little for 12+ hours of work (admittedly, most of the time it is not very difficult or tedious work, but still). Did I also mention that you only get the equivalent of 1 full day off every three weeks or so in order to do laundry? If they are going to have employees living in a dorm style situation where they are pretty much locked in to being at work, the employer has to at least provide basic living needs for it's employees. And yes, a washer and dryer for all staff members is included in that list of needs. I totally understand that Seacamp is a non profit, does not have a huge budget after liability insurance and other expenses, etc. But really? No communal washer and dryer for all 50+ of your employees to use and have easy access to? What this camp "provides" for it's employees is truly embarrassing. Doing laundry was so rare that most of the time, we walked around with dirty, stinky clothes for weeks because of how incredibly inconvenient it was to wash our own clothes.
Living in the Florida Keys (especially on Big Pine Key) is not nearly as exciting as you may think. This isn't anything like a Hawaiian vacation. The camp (ie, where you live) is on an island with a small population and nothing but key deer (yes, the key deer are cool at first but they become pretty mundane after awhile). As far as things on Big Pine Key go, there are gas stations, a Winn Dixie supermarket, a couple dive shops and a ton of bars. The most exciting thing to do here (and I am not exaggerating) is to go to a bar, drink and get wifi or go to the supermarket. The camp does not provide internet access, so if you don't have access to a smart phone then with the exception of the limited use at the library, you are pretty much out of luck if you want to get online. Aside from the warm ocean, corals and rare instances where you may get to go diving (assuming you are a certified diver), there is really nothing exciting to do here.
Time off is a nightmare. They work you from 9am until 10:30pm (although you have to be up by 7am to adhere to their breakfast schedule). During summer sessions, they break up your time off into thirds of a day (ie you get a morning off here, an afternoon off here and an evening off here). You never get a full day off unless you are between sessions (which happens about once every three weeks, and they make a big deal about how you get a full day off to yourself, which in my opinion is pretty depressing.
The food quality is iffy. Granted it has improved during the time I worked there, but they really served low quality food which was not very healthy. Even with the somewhat improved food, going to a restaurant on your minuscule days off is considered to be a luxury, although going out to eat will easily suck up a days worth of pay. Even the campers complained about the food quality.
The dorms are absolutely terrible, lack air conditioning and do not provide privacy whatsoever. Imagine being put in a giant, swelteringly hot room with six bunk beds and six roommates (each person gets a bunk and uses the other bed for storing their stuff), two incredibly noisy fans and really low quality windows and screens that bugs can easily fly through. The camp director even recommends wearing bug spray when you go to bed, if that indicates how low quality the dorms are. Say goodbye to any privacy you hoped you would get. Whoever you get paired with as roommates will be a hit or miss as well. There were a fair amount of people who I was paired with and got along with just fine. However you may also get stuck with one or more individuals who you absolutely do not get along with at all (That was unfortunately my situation for the month of training, however that is a story for another time). The dorms also lack air conditioning, so you need to buy or collect your own fans if you want to be remotely comfortable when you sleep. Did I also mention that you need to provide your own sheets? That is what your living situation at Seacamp will be like should you decide to go for it anyway.
Seacamp has way too many rules. It is somewhat understandable since they have a lot of liability riding on their shoulders, but they took it to a ridiculously paranoid level that belittles both the staff members and the campers. I can go into specific examples, but you will see what I am talking about should you decide to work for them despite all of this. The excessive rules goes so far that it makes camp annoying and way less fun then it should be, and belittles adult staff members who are otherwise capable of taking care of themselves.
Seacamp also needs to be more selective about who they hire. Yes you will likely meet some lifelong friends here. However, they hire so many people and are usually short staffed during the summer (hmm, I wonder why) that they aren't as selective as they should be. During my experience there, there were a couple of bad apples who really should not have been working there to begin with. It is difficult to get better employees to replace the ones who are clearly not fit for the job when they moved from somewhere far away (9 times out of 10, staff members are hired from a different state or country). My suggestion to fix this is to hire longer term employees while fixing a lot of things about Seacamp that makes it more painful then enjoyable (ie, so people are actually inclined to stay). If they do that, training costs will go down since they will cycle through less employees and they can be more selective about who they hire.
Speaking of which, they need to hire people further in advance (at least a month in advance before the job starts) and not wait until the last minute. I applied to work at Seacamp several months prior to hiring, and they did not even get around to interviewing me until less then a week before the job started (keep in mind I was on the other side of the country, which made getting there very difficult). Consider that most people are dealing with finals and probably don't live in Florida, so getting them to come down to the keys on such short notice is downright unprofessional. They could at least provide a travel stipend, but they don't do even that.
The CEO is a really nice lady who really cares about Seacamp. So it is a shame that I still feel compelled to rate her negatively. As a person, she is wonderful. However, I still really disapprove of how the camp is run for a lot of reasons. I can't really say I would recommend this place to anyone, regardless whether you are a potential camper or staff member.
Seacamp is a place where people seem to come with high expectations only to have them flattened when they get there. Think I am being too negative? There have been several instances where people got so fed up with Seacamp and how it was run that they walked out on their contract (ie, they packed up in the middle of the night and left without saying a word to anyone because they were so sick of this place).
Overall, if you are in college or recently graduated, you do not mind living in low quality dorms with no air conditioning with a bunch of people you may or may not get along with, do not mind getting paid in peanuts and lint fuzz (okay that was a joke, but they really do pay a terrible salary, and I suppose the logic behind that is that they are paying you in "experience") and have literally nothing better to do during your summer and do not mind living in a hot, humid environment with nothing to do during your free time other then chat and go to the bars, then this may be the place for you. Unfortunately, it sure wasn't the place for me or 95% of the people I worked with who regularly complained about how terrible Seacamp was. Even some of the campers we oversaw complained about the low quality of living at Seacamp, and they were baffled when I told them that I had been there all summer (although if it wasn't a contract job, I would have probably quit and left in a heart beat).
On another note, the people who work here are not actual scientists doing groundbreaking research in their field, so if you are someone trying to break in to the marine science field and make connections, I would look elsewhere.Advice to ManagementAdvice
Hire and maintain longer term staff so you don't need to spend so much time and money certifying new people every season. This place is geared to be an employee mill that cycles people in and out of working at the camp during summer camp and NHMI. Install a washer and drier (one that is in overall good condition) on the property so your employees do not have to go weeks (or even 1+ months) without washing their own clothes before they finally cave in and make the commute to Key West. Also, certify your staff members as trained lifeguards asap before the kids come in. Waiting to give us lifeguard certifications until after we left Seacamp and expecting us to act as lifeguards in the meantime violates Red Cross guidelines.Doesn't RecommendNegative OutlookDisapproves of CEO