Wichita feeling impact of labor shortage

Published: May. 5, 2021 at 10:20 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The plea to find workers is getting bigger and bolder as signs outside businesses seek applicants to come in.

Elite Staffing Solutions President Chris Rickerson said there was a major shift earlier this year when it came to the number of job seekers.

“It was pretty interesting. When stimulus really first started hitting, along with tax returns, traffic stopped immediately for onboarding, so recruiting of new talent. It was pretty tough,” Rickerson said.

He also attributes additional benefits provided through unemployment as a significant reason for why the overall pool of applicants is low.

“Prior to COVID and the stimulus, we could run ads, social media, do that targeted marketing and see traffic as a result,” Rickerson said. “It is maybe 30 percent of what it was.”

He said part of the effort to keep the situation from getting worse was to increase pay by almost 30 percent.

“I saw quickly that if I didn’t make an adjustment and get wages up, we’re not going to be able to fill jobs,” Rickerson said. “So we made an adjustment quickly, raised wages, raised rates, and that move has worked nicely.”

Rickerson said Elite Staffing Solutions primarily works to fill blue-collar jobs in construction, manufacturing and labor, but he’s seeing staff shortages across many different industries.

“We’re seeing unprecedented demand for our services, so every day we’re taking new calls,” Rickerson said. “We’ve ceased sales efforts. Calls just come in.”

For those employers needing assistance in finding workers, he said his staff agency is working quickly.

“I said, ‘I’ll sign you up today. I’ll have the help tomorrow,’” Rickerson said.

Since the end of February, the Kansas Department of Labor has been requiring people filing for unemployment to provide proof that they’re looking for work. KANSASWORKS, the state’s job service agency, currently lists more than 40,000 job openings across a wide range of fields.

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