Need for help: a sign of the times

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There’s a common presence in many companies these days: in-demand jobs.

A labor shortage has affected almost every industry since the pandemic rubble hit, and many employers have since encountered obstacles in filling vacancies.

And it’s not just in restaurants and grocery stores, as the shortfall also affects county stations, law enforcement and school districts.

Few but skilled
The Batavia City Police Department has been understaffed due to vacancies, creating more overtime for full-time officers, Chief Shawn Heubusch said.

“It caused officers to work a lot of short shifts over time, so we weren’t able to work as many OTs associated with special details as we would like,” he said. declared. “We have hired several qualified candidates who are progressing through academies or field training and will be able to fill vacancies in highway patrol in the near future. This will allow us to get back to working more on the specialized details that we are looking forward to doing. »

He noted, however, that the department had “a significant drop in applicants” for the latest exam.

“Basically, the candidates have been cut in half. It has been difficult to recruit in public safety, in all fields, for various reasons,” said Heubusch. “I will say that although the number of applicants has decreased, we have not seen a decrease in the number of qualified applicants. In fact, I would say just the opposite. Considering everything that has happened in the country, current candidates are extremely determined to become law enforcement officers as evidenced by the background and interview process. We have learned that these recruits are highly motivated to become Batavia City Police Officers. »

It’s good news. So what about the schools in the city of Batavia, whose council just approved a long list of teachers and teaching assistant positions?

Creative recruitment
During her presentation at this week’s meeting, Trisha Finnigan, executive director of staff development and operations, described the means by which the district recruits and retains qualified candidates. It’s not just about posting a job anymore.

“So, starting with recruitment, we had to take a more creative approach in terms of recruiting exceptional personnel to join the Blue Devils family. Instead of relying on traditional methods, such as newspapers, our websites and our recruitment sites, for example, we use Indeed,” she said. “We also noticed that when I looked back on the past year, there seems to be a disconnect from when someone expresses his interest in a position. Now we tell them that they have to, for example, fill out an application for civil service, because it seemed that this would not happen. So when I looked at this information, we decided that we would take a different approach.

This approach involves not taking it for granted that job applicants understand the steps needed to apply, she said. Candidates are called for an interview and given the civil service application form which they must complete. The process has been refined, she said, to be more proactive in informing candidates of what they need to do next, such as being fingerprinted or completing necessary paperwork.

“It was great. We just posted ads for teacher assistants and substitute teachers and they are coming. So I’m confident that we have people who could fill the need that we lacked last year,” Finnigan said. “So we are going in the right direction. It is my responsibility to ensure that I exploit the avenues where we attract exceptional candidates to come and work with us. And then how do we get that? Just let me see if I missed anything here. One of the other things that we did as well was that in negotiating contracts with some of our units last year, we had to do a better job of posting the perks of the positions.

“So instead of, say, making teaching assistants available, just with a pay scale, we made sure to include things like there’s health insurance benefits, you can get paid for the vacation, you can bank vacation,” she said. “So those are some things when we’re competing against other employers in the area, maybe offering a higher hourly wage, we can compete against other things.”

Parents asked about jobs aligned with their schedules “to reflect the school calendar.” That meant more hiring of local residents, which was nice, she said.

“Hiring is a very collaborative process. We work in close collaboration with the administrators, we look at positions. Since July 1, we’ve hired more than 35 New York State-certified people, 16 new support team members, and that includes food service aides, custodial support, as well as teacher aides,” she said. “And it must be said that with this money we received for preschool programs, it allowed us to add 10 positions, certification positions… So it was something because we really had to scramble.

She had a quick turnaround to post, hire and train these people for the school opening the second week of September. It worked well, she said, and the district continues to reach out to colleges for applicants. In an effort not to “settle” for a less qualified candidate, the district opted to fill the gaps with retired teachers until the best candidates were found.

She also talked about retention: “It’s one thing we attract people, it’s another thing to keep them.”

“It’s a way to gauge their satisfaction and their perception of whether they feel valued as part of the Batavia Blue Devils family,” she said. “And I also get great feedback on the interview process and other things that helped me plan better when we source candidates.”

Solve the problem
Earlier this year, the Genesee County Legislature agreed to waive all civil service fees to remove a potential hurdle for candidates, and this week approved a resolution to expand the residency territory for office positions. officers in hopes of attracting more interested applicants for openings.

Mental Health Department Director Lynda Battaglia previously spoke about the difficulty of filling four vacancies for high-profile clinical and financial roles in a psychiatrist role. The county has struggled to find a full-time psychiatrist and has revised the position to provide a hybrid of in-person and remote counseling services to better accommodate someone who cannot be local full-time.

Many, but inexperienced
Although some employers are more creative in attracting candidates, it may not be about the job at all. At least that’s what Chris Van Dusen of Empire Hemp Company discovered. He and his wife Shelly were at a recent job fair and did pretty well, they said.

“We had over 300 applications,” Shelly said.

What they soon learned was that candidates weren’t as interested in the job as they were in the product. And when that misunderstanding was cleared up (no, there’s no smoking marijuana at work), the potential 300 dropped to about three or four viable candidates, the couple said.

State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon visited Batavia on Tuesday and acknowledged the lack of qualified applicants in some fields while encouraging students to further their education, training and job skills to fill jobs. the many jobs available in manufacturing, food chain and other trades.

Maybe in the end, there may not be enough organizations to fill the vacancies. According to the state’s most recent data, 30,500 Genesee County residents are in the workforce, up from 29,400 a year ago. The state’s unemployment rate of 4.8% is a few points lower than 7.1% a year ago, and 900 people were listed as unemployed, down from 1,300 a year ago.

Photo by Howard Owens.

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