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Employers Continue to Struggle with Filling Positions

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Several sectors show decreased in employment numbers

Although some indicators show businesses are adapting and adjusting to post-COVID-19 life, staffing persists as a factor that’s proving sluggish for some industries. 

Business Insider tabulated Bureau of Labor Statistics data it presented in an August 2022 issue that shows staffing challenges numerous industries with a big decrease in employment from February 2020 to July 2022, including in hospitality and healthcare sectors.

The data suggests that employment that requires physical presence or hands-on work is the hardest to staff. 

This certainly rings true for Janet Yuckel, owner of Done Right Cleaning in West Monroe.

“Everything was going well until the pandemic and then everything changed,” she said. “I have half the staff, so that’s half the work. I turn down jobs every day because I can’t staff it. The people I have are wonderful. I need more.”

She said that she widely advertises for openings and pays her staff well. However, she believes that it is the lack of available daycare, the physical nature of the work and also distaste for cleaning that has contributed to the dearth of applicants.

“They feel entitled,” she said. “They don’t want to work. No one even calls.”

For professional positions, highly skilled positions are tough to fill as well. 

Carol R. Fletcher, president of C.R. Fletcher Associates, Inc. in Syracuse, said that openings in engineering, finance, and healthcare are really tough to fill. Exacerbating the problem is the shift in applicants, Fletcher has observed.

“Candidates since COVID-19 are being more demanding and companies are turning things back to the way things used to be,” she said. “Companies want people in-house. Oftentimes, candidates want to work remotely or as hybrid schedule and a lot of companies aren’t doing that. Companies want to get back to normalcy.”

Of course, many roles in healthcare and manufacturing are hard to fill with a remote or hybrid working arrangement.

The cost of education has caused many people to think twice before investing in a degree. 

Michelle Jevis, director of human resources and staffing at CR Fletcher, said that with fewer people pursuing a bachelor’s or master’s in accounting, “not as many are entering the profession. There are a lot more degree programs and not as many students are picking that. Historically, that profession has always been associated with long hours, travel and busy seasons. A lot of companies are making it more flexible, but the stigma has stuck with it.”

In addition to continuing to use their existing employment solicitations and recruiting efforts, companies should look at their existing staff for filling mid- to higher-level openings.

“Companies should always consider promoting from within,” said John R. Halleron, advanced certified senior business adviser with the Small Business Development Center in Oswego. “It provides an incentive to an employee to continue to improve skills knowing that there may be a possibility to move up the line. If the talent is there, use it.”

Offering tuition reimbursement has proven helpful in healthcare, for example. If other industries followed suit with mentoring programs, educational opportunities or other means of developing their existing staff, they may find more workers willing and capable to fill mid- to -high-level positions.