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Central Coast small businesses struggle to find workers as pandemic eases

Angel Russell
Some vendors aren't able to return to the San Luis Obispo Farmers market because they don't have enough staff to work the restaurant and booth

With businesses operating at full capacity, companies throughout the Central Coast are rehiring. But now, businesses are reporting a new struggle — finding workers. 

During the pandemic, job seekers had a tough time finding places that were hiring, said Gabrielle Fletes with Volt Workforce Solutions, a job matching agency in the Central Coast. Fletes said that is not the case now. 

“We are in the complete opposite situation," Fletes said. "We have quite a few jobs open and not too many employees looking for work.”

Fletes said companies are having to compete with each other in a way they haven’t needed to before, and many are trying to lure back workers by offering bonuses and incentives.

“Those are the companies that are having a bit more luck out there," Fletes said. "Companies really are having to bring more to the table and look more into, ‘Why we are not attracting the talent that we are looking for?'”

Bettina Swigger with Downtown SLO Organization said it’s not just one-time bonuses businesses are trying in order to bring job seekers through their doors.

"I’ve spoken to a few restaurant owners who are raising their wages in order to attract some people," Swigger said. "But even that doesn’t seem to be enough to solve the problem.”

Swigger said with people now back to pre-pandemic shopping and eating habits, it's a perfect storm of the supply not keeping up with the demand. Swigger said the labor shortage is evident in the weekly SLO Farmers Market.

“We are seeing that some of our beloved food vendors are not able to come back to the market just yet," Swigger said. "Because they don’t have the staff to support in-restaurant dining and also have a booth at our farmers market.”

Fletes said it's a job seekers market right now, and potential employees can be pickier in their job searches.

“I think if you have the skill set or you’re looking for a transition into really kick starting your career," Fletes said. " Now is the best time to do so.”

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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