You've probably seen your share of ‘help wanted’ signs across DFW.
The hard-hit hospitality industry is trying to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic.
But there's a problem. They need workers. A lot of them.
Out-of-work North Texans showed up at a hospitality job fair at Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center with plenty of options before them.
Brittany McCaskill said her custodian job just wasn't working out.
“It's been rough with COVID,” she said. “Been unemployed for three months now. Just trying to get in the swing of things.”
According to Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas, 23 employers participating in the job fair have more than 2000 jobs available right now.
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“Usually, they'll post a job with us and maybe for one opening or two, well now they're posting all of their jobs with us and it's for multiple openings,” said WSGD account exec. Steven Bridges. “Front of the house, back of the house and everything in between.”
Bridges acknowledges the labor shortage could be a ‘reckoning’ of sorts for an industry traditionally considered low-paying while physically demanding.
“I'd say it definitely is,” he said. “we've talked to some of these employers as well and they're looking to really increase some of those wages. They're offering $250 hire-on bonuses and some employers are offering 200 to $300 referral bonuses.”
Dallas College professor of economics Carlos Martinez said there are several factors for the labor shortage, believed to have been in place even before the pandemic, including: Those employees who are anxious about returning to work during COVID-19.
The number of foreign workers with visas was also impacted last year.
And yes, there are many people receiving unemployment benefits.
“These generous unemployment benefits, as I said necessary benefits, are giving the laborer time to decide what they want to do,” said Martinez.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott recently announced Texas will opt-out of receiving an extra $300 of federal unemployment benefits on June 26, in an effort to get Texans back to work.
The added federal aid was set to end in September. Abbott argues It is hampering the state's economy from bouncing back.
“As soon as the unemployment benefits dry up people are going to have to find work,” said Martinez.
Dr. Kim Williams, chair of UNT's Department of Hospitality and Tourism, disagrees the labor shortage is a reckoning for the industry.
“I feel like our industry is one of the best most attractive industries for workers,” she said.
William said the hospitality industry should do a better job of telling its story. A story that includes many opportunities for career advancement.
William said the industry has already learned several lessons during the pandemic, including the importance of making employees feel safe to return to work, the importance of providing child-care support in flexible schedules, as well as how to properly furlough workers.
“When they furloughed people, how did you do that,” she asks. “Did you leave the door open? Did you have current contact information so that when business operations resumed you could quickly reach out to them? Or did you close the door and say I'm so sorry and that was it.”
Employees, she said, should use this time to seek advancement opportunities with their employers or prospective employers. Williams anticipates the labor market will improve by the fall as unemployment benefits run out.
“Don't wait for your benefits to run out to start looking for opportunities,” she said.
Williams says many hotels not only offer plenty of opportunities for advancement some even offered tuition reimbursement. Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas urges all workers to ask for help. The agency offers free training and advancement advice.
Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas plans to hold at least one industry-specific job fair every month this summer.