Staff shortage continues in Mesa County | Business
After enduring months of staff shortages, employers in Grand Valley are hoping the expiration of unemployment benefits, aggressive hiring fairs and incentives will lure employees into their payroll.
Mesa County’s unemployment rate is just over 6%, about half of what it was in April 2020. But even with the improvement, many businesses are reporting being understaffed.
With unemployment benefits established by the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) law expiring earlier this month, employers are hoping to see more applicants, but some believe that may not solve the whole problem.
“Unemployment is definitely a factor. People were getting full benefits and other programs. Some were earning more on the job than on the job, ”said Curtis Englehart, director of the Mesa County Workforce Center, 512 29½ Road. “But that’s only part of the equation. People are changing industries, they’ve become comfortable with working from home, so they want to stick with it. Mental health comes into play when there is anxiety in the public space.
The Workforce Center uses Connect Colorado, a state employment website, to connect employers and potential employees. Englehart has seen the lists increase dramatically and recently a slight increase in the number of people coming to use their services.
Job seekers are matched with an employer based on their interests and skills, primarily focusing on jobs with a clear career path. This focus on growth rather than just jobs can be key to getting people back into the workforce, Englehart said.
“Job seekers want to see that they can grow up there, make more money and get certifications,” Englehart said.
NEED AT ALL LEVELS
Val Begalle makes regular appearances at Mesa County Workforce Center career fairs. As the Community Relations Coordinator for Comfort Keepers, a home health care service, this is a perfect opportunity to bring in candidates to fill their vacancies.
At the September 1 career fair, there were 54 companies spanning a wide range of industries, such as quick service restaurants, healthcare and education. A total of 167 job seekers attended the fair.
“It has so many more employers than any other I’ve been to,” Begalle said. “It just shows you how many workers are needed. All of these businesses need help, and we certainly need help. We have more people seeking care and we need more people to respond to that. It all started last year when COVID-19 hit. “
On Connecting Colorado, the job posting database that state workforce centers use, 280 of Grand Junction’s 934 recent job postings are in healthcare. The closest industry is Retail and Trade with 146 listings.
“We hire and hire people, but they don’t always stick around. We bring them in and a week or two later they don’t call, don’t show up, ”Begalle said. “Now we don’t have a lot, but it makes it harder for us. We have older people waiting for care, so we have to juggle that. “
Dillard Department Store is an employer that has been successful in hiring new workers.
With an opening slated for early October, Jim Benson de Dillard, sales and promotion manager for the Western region, said they would be full.
He said their stores still face challenges in hiring and retaining good employees, and part of Grand Junction’s success has been based on the excitement of opening a new store. The store hosted a 10-day job fair at the store in mid-August, accepting applications for around 70 permanent full-time positions.
Other industries have long struggled with scarcity.
Many restaurateurs and city managers have complained that they cannot fill the staff. Some also blame unemployment but whatever the cause, the end result often ends in smaller menus and overworked staff.
Restaurants were particularly affected at the onset of COVID-19 and, on top of that, research suggests the industry is most at risk during the pandemic. A study from the University of California at San Francisco found that line cooks were the profession with the most deaths from COVID-19 from March 2020 to October 2020.
The pandemic has been mixed for West Star Aviation. The company, which provides a range of services from aircraft maintenance to painting work, has held two job fairs since June. The most recent took place Thursday at its location at 2465 Patterson Road.
Dave Krogman, who spoke on behalf of West Star, said the company had a plethora of jobs to replace as well as new job postings.
“When you add up, we have almost 520 employees, but it was difficult to get people to come here,” he said. “One of our biggest challenges is letting people know that we are here.
According to a recent study by the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, West Star is Mesa County’s 10th largest employer with nearly 500 employees.
Krogman said one advantage of West Star is that the job provides opportunities for promotion and certification, as well as apprenticeships. Some jobs also do not require previous aviation training or experience.
“There was a kid who came out today who is in school and looking for a job, while a former oil worker came looking for a career change,” Krogman said. “These are the people we usually meet, but it’s for a variety of reasons.”
Angela, who has requested that her last name not be released, has struggled for the past 18 months with her job search.
She was at the Workforce Center Career Fair on September 1, looking for opportunities in addiction counseling.
“The job I had in 2020, I worked as needed and we didn’t need much. By the end of the year it was clear that I wasn’t working a lot, so I got another job, which didn’t work, ”she said. “It’s like a rafting trip, it’s been so bumpy.”
She already has a gig as a part-time artist-in-residence at two local schools, but working two five-hour days is not enough to support her or her six-year-old grandson. Now she is trying to find a stable but fulfilling income.
Some economists in the country believe that many people find themselves in situations similar to Angela’s.
Steven Deller, an economist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told Wisconsin Public Radio on September 8 that child care and safety issues with the delta variant of COVID-19 will keep people on the sidelines, and that low-wage jobs will be the most impacted.
Some, like President Joe Biden, argue that since low-paying jobs are open, it should encourage better working conditions and pay. Others argue that it hurts local businesses.
Angela said she had heard all of these arguments, but thought there was a better way.
Angela also said that a person should be happy where they work.
“Life is too short to work where you are not happy. I prefer to work in a place that respects me as a person and accommodates me. I am raising a 6 year old child, so I need a job that allows me to pick him up from school, ”she said. “Pay us more money. We are worth it.