Challenges in Getting and Keeping Workers Continue to Escalate

Female forest sector worker with hard hat and orange safety vest

For many reasons, the last 15 months have been trying for everyone. As it pertains to companies who are looking for candidates to fill open positions, the difficulties seem to be expanding.

A few common recruiting challenges include attracting the right candidate, engaging qualified candidates, building a strong employer brand, and creating an efficient recruiting process.

The above are challenges that occur when things are “normal.” The additional concerns and difficulties facing companies because of the pandemic can be an unnerving – and ever-changing – challenge. Some items that have come up in the last year include:

  • Driver shortages:
    • Insurability issues for drivers.
    • COVID effects on driving/training resources. Classes were canceled, so the expected new drivers never became viable.
    • Competing industries paying higher wages.
    • These shortages affect the entire supply chain.
  • Housing availability:
    • The demand for housing has increased, making it difficult for relocating candidates to find homes.
    • It can also be difficult to find affordable housing in the areas where manufacturing jobs are open.
  • Competing companies:
    • Other industries often can attract employees with higher wages and other perks.
    • Sign-on bonuses are being utilized to obtain workers for many companies that are desperate to fill vital positions.
  • Employees not returning to work:
    • COVID fear. Many people still fear contracting the virus and are apprehensive about a work environment that is not easily socially distanced. As more and more people are vaccinated and begin to feel more comfortable being around co-workers, that challenge should be easier to combat.
    • Childcare became an issue for many parents when students had classes at home. Choosing to stay home when their kids became virtual students negatively impacted the pool of employees returning to work.
    • Many people are receiving as much – or more – from unemployment as they would if they returned to work.
    • Some who are out of work do not have the skills for positions that are open.

FRA began Workforce Connections in 2019 to assist in connecting job seekers with those needing to fill positions. Since then, we have tried to approach workforce issues from many angles:

  • Networking with trade schools and colleges in the Pacific Northwest to inform professors and graduating students of potential jobs.
  • FRA has continued to work with industry companies to have a useful, up-to-date Job Board (link here). If you have any jobs you would like to post (or link your company site with available jobs), please let me know.
  • In 2020, FRA and other industry associations created the Thru The Trees video contest to promote the industry to high school students. There will be a second year of the contest beginning in September when the new school year begins.
  • Upcoming webinar: Making Apprenticeship Programs Work for You. This webinar will feature a discussion of state and federal apprenticeship programs across the country and how they can benefit your company and employees.
  • Upcoming webinar: Retaining and Developing your Workforce. To be held later this summer. More information will be sent out soon.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated an already challenging workforce situation for many in our industry. FRA will continue to work with our members to arrive at satisfactory and sustainable solutions to this monumental challenge.

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