LIMA — It’s been more than a year since the COVID-19 pandemic hit and it’s had a profound effect on several areas, including the job market.
Many service jobs, like restaurants, had to cut workers while they shut down during the pandemic.
Now many of those same restaurants along Elida Road have Help Wanted signs out.
On Friday, the Golden Corral in Lima reopened after being closed for a time during the pandemic.
Local restaurants had to close or curtail operations, offering drive-through or pickup services only.
John Heaphy, who is founder and president of Good Food Restaurants, has been trying to attract more workers to his restaurants like Happy Daz, Beer Barrel and Old City Prime.
“We have positions open, and we have been trying desperately, like everybody, to get people to apply for work,” Heaphy said. “We went from last year, prior to the shutdown, 1,000 employees at one point down to about 350. And I’d say now, we’re back to about 80 percent of previous employment. So the problem isn’t that we don’t have the need. The problem is there’s just a lack of applications coming in.”
Heaphy says the restaurant business is different than it was before the pandemic.
“We’ve already seen since the first of the year, a very robust business and it’s just a different mix. We used to be 80-20 dine-in, take-out and we’re 65-35, probably, right now on that mix of business. But still, all of that food-to-go takes labor. We need people to cook it and pack it and hand it out to people,” Heaphy said.
Heaphy says due to the lack of people applying for jobs, they’ve had to spend money to advertise open positions.
“If you watch the TV commercials, watch billboards, listen on the radio, look at social media, look at what people are spending on Indeed and Open Door, and all of these platforms, everyone is searching for employees. I feel like we’re spending as much money advertising for staff as we used to for advertising for new customers. It’s expensive,” Heaphy said.
Heaphy says the pandemic has created a situation where they must also compete with other services that have grown during the pandemic like delivery drivers.
“We don’t think about it because we don’t see a brick-and-mortar place. But if you look at Lyft, and Uber and DoorDash, and grocery stores like Kroger, ALDI, Meijer — everyone’s delivering. You’ve got a lot of people, driving their cars, listening to their music, clocking in, clocking out when they want. That’s new competition for retailers and foodservice people and I think it’s having a small impact,” Heaphy said.
Switching jobs pays off
Jason May, employed at a Lima bank, decided to switch jobs after a merger last March created uncertainty in his mind about his future there.
“I felt the direction the bank was going and was out looking for a new job,” May said.
He turned to Ohio Means Jobs Allen County and utilized one of their career consultants to help prepare him for the next chapter in his life.
“Samantha Butterfield helped me redo my résumé and cover letter. She had sent me some different positions that were coming open or were already open and I just kind of worked with her and got in contact with Wendy Donley over here at Superior Credit Union. We had talked to her about a couple of positions that came open and submitted my information and they offered me a position,” May said.
May said having help from Ohio Means Jobs meant a lot to a successful job search.
“The way she (Samantha Butterfield) was able to take that (his résumé) and then kind of almost pigeonhole into a couple of the positions that she felt would really be instrumental or really be an opportunity for me, I think that was the biggest help. I hadn’t updated my résumé for four and a half, five years,” May said.
Joe Patton, executive director of Ohio Means Jobs Allen County, says they can help take the lead in getting you employment to fit your qualifications.
“At Ohio Means Jobs, you could come down and make an appointment with a career consultant and they’ll customize your résumé to the jobs you’re applying for,” Patton said. “So once you have your résumé on file with us, we can just kind of push it around. We kind of retool your résumé to highlight what they’re after and then we’d send it to you for approval. You give us the thumbs-up and then we push it on to the employer so that’s just an added service, instead of just putting the same résumé out everywhere, you’re getting your customization here.”
Workers need soft job skills
As more and more businesses fully open up, employers will likely need more workers to fill their openings.
Employers around here are looking for what Patton calls soft job skills.
“Right now most of the skill sets we’re seeing are people willing to show up and go to work and pass the drug test for a lot of our manufacturing jobs,” Patton said. “Rudolph Foods and Bob Evans both start at around $16 or $17 an hour with just a high school diploma.”
Patton expects to see increases in the need for people in factory jobs.
“Manufacturing’s big, also the ones we always struggle to fill are mechanical or electrical maintenance people. Those are the higher-skilled jobs, usually needing an associate’s degree,” Patton said.
The time is now to start your job search
People who were laid off during the pandemic and relied on unemployment really need to start looking for work, according to Patton.
“Employers definitely look at how long you’ve been out of the game. So all things equal, most employers, if you’re looking to hire somebody and you got a guy on unemployment for nine months and you know there’s all these jobs around and then he’s at the end of his rope and now he’s looking — or you got the guy that was, you know, his plant shut down and he was hustling on it for maybe a month and he’s been off work but he’s out there looking right now when he doesn’t have to be, it does show some level of engagement from the job seeker’s side that as an employer I know which one I would pick,” Patton said.
Heaphy says in today’s job market, you tend to overlook the gaps.
“Employment is similar to the old business theory of supply and demand. And I think when supply is so low, that demand is so high that you become less critical. Sometimes we just need people, right? So we’re not critiquing, probably as thoroughly as we used to,” Heaphy said.
Consider temp agencies for work
Some people might consider turning to a temporary agency to find work.
Spherion of Lima has long been considered a place to go for short-term assignments but they also have opportunities that lead to full-time permanent work.
“We used to be more or less a temp agency,” said Karen Grothouse, CEO of Spherion Lima. “But companies know they need to give the employee an incentive and that incentive is to be hired on, some of them sooner than later. The majority of the jobs that we have are jobs that are a temp-to-hire.”
During the pandemic, Spherion has been pretty busy in the region.
“We placed over 4,000 people to work at probably about 225 different clients. So even during the pandemic year, we put a lot of people to work in Northwest Ohio,” Grothouse said.
They are also seeing an uptick in factory jobs.
“So the biggest skills that are needed is assembly throughout all of our offices,” said Megan Fullenkamp, regional marketing coordinator for Spherion. “People do not have to have any experience or anything like that. So the most skilled positions, we’re looking at is welders and forklifts. Obviously, our welders have to have a certification and whatever specific welding, and then also our forklift drivers have to be certified.”
Time to upgrade skills
To make yourself more attractive to potential employers you might want to consider sharpening your skills whether it’s taking some online classes or going for a degree.
“You could be adding to your skills if you’re working or if you’re on layoff. If you lose your job, we have rapid response services through the Workforce Opportunities Investment Act where we can enroll you and pay for an education or training. We can only do two years. If you’re working toward an associate’s we can take you to a bachelor’s or if you don’t have anything, we could take you up to an associate’s or just get you a certificate of something that’s in demand,” Patton said.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.