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“We’ve never had to work so hard to find employees”: Economy changes staffing industry

By Andie Foley
andie.foley@salisburypost.com

Brad Schapiro and Cindy Cannon both say there’s been a seismic shift in the staffing industry over the last ten years.

For Rowan County and other communities hit hard by the recession, the referenced shift is a welcome one: a flourishing economy has brought an influx of higher-paying, entry-level jobs.

Enter Monroe Staffing, where Schapiro acts as a regional director and Cannon as a staffing specialist.

Monroe Staffing works with companies to both recruit and preliminarily screen new hires, saving their clients man hours in a search to fill an ever-increasing number of positions.

They work mostly with light industrial, manufacturing positions, and the agency is facing a “problem to have,” said Schapiro.

“The business community has reacted from the feedback of the people,” he said. “They have raised pay rates. But, … with the plethora of jobs, turnover has actually increased.”

Employers are having to fight to draw in potential employees within this new sea of opportunity, said Schapiro.

“Fifteen years ago, if you paid more you got a better person,” said Schapiro. “Now, they’re paying more just to remain relevant.”

Just how much more? Cannon and Schapiro estimate that the “magic number” for attracting quality employees has increased as much as $2 just in the last few years alone: from from $10 an hour to $12.

Why? Because of a wide array of employers offering hourly wages in the $10 range. Employees are easily swayed to other companies offering $0.25, $0.50 or $1 more an hour.

Therein comes the seismic shift. Now, staffing agencies aren’t just offering employers a chance to “test drive” potential employees: they’re offering employers a chance to deploy retention tactics: benefits, flexibility and more.

“We’ve never had to work so hard to find employees,” said Schapiro. “When I started in this business, national unemployment was maybe 8 or 9 percent. If I had 20 openings at a company, I’d have 50 people to consider. … Now, if I have 20 openings at a company, I probably have 15 people I’m considering.”

Cannon and Schapiro both said the shortage of applicants is coming from job availability for working adults. But, they said, it’s being exacerbated by a lack of high school graduates or GED recipients with “tangible skill sets.”

Fewer and fewer students are pursuing a vocational tract, Schapiro said, which could actually take less time than a four-year degree and lead to higher starting wages: up to $20 to $40 to start.

“In today’s culture, when someone goes to high school the natural tract is to go on to college,” said Schapiro. “But … there are a lot of very good paying skilled labor jobs. … There are other ways to providing a nice living for yourself and your family.”

Cannon offered a more tactile solution.

“I would like to see more companies coming in and taking these younger people and training them. I do think there’s a gap of a generation that’s a little lost,” she said. “… How do we reach these people … so they don’t go out on the streets?”

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