Labor shortage leaves Brookline Recreation with vacancies

Employers are struggling to fill positions amid a nationwide labor shortage, and Brookline is not immune. Across the city, small businesses, restaurants, and even city departments have too many opportunities and not enough applicants.

Among the hardest hit is Brookline’s Recreation Department, which relies on part-time and seasonal staff to staff facilities, including the city’s aquatic center and municipal golf course, and to deliver programs to members of the Brookline. community of all ages.

“Part-time positions have been the most difficult to fill: teachers, lifeguards, golf course maintenance and camp counselors come to mind as the most difficult,” said the recreation director of Brookline, Leigh Jackson, to TAB in an email.

The department’s staffing level is now 20% below its target, and all municipal recreation facilities have experienced understaffing at one point or another this summer – some for the whole summer, Jackson said.

The city’s summer camp, after-school and athletic programs all faced significant shortcomings, she said, adding, “They all saw a lot fewer applicants and applicants with less experience. “

Why the labor shortage in the United States?

Brookline is not alone; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows 3.5 million fewer people are in the workforce now than in February 2020, USA TODAY reported last month.

However, Cornell University labor economist Erica Groshen, who served as commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2014 to 2017, told USA TODAY that the numbers don’t necessarily imply a lack of workers or a lack of workers. of skills – this means that the available workers are not. t willing to accept the salary, benefits and working conditions offered.

The shortage could also be linked to a shortage of foreign workers or, Groshen said, a period of career reassessment.

Some employers and lawmakers have cited the $ 300 increase in federal unemployment benefits, which will expire on September 6, as the cause. Economists disagree on whether the extra help discourages people from returning to work, according to USA TODAY.

Following:“I’d rather work”: debate rages as states reduce unemployment and workers seek jobs, better pay

The pandemic has exacerbated outstanding issues

According to Michele Campbell of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, the challenges of the labor shortage extend far beyond additional unemployment benefits. In some urban areas, the combination of an aging workforce heading into retirement and younger workers leaving the area created a shortage ahead of COVID-19.

“Even before the pandemic, cities struggled to attract investment and economic opportunity. A relatively aging workforce and an exodus of working-age youth have both contributed to the labor shortage and urban vitality of these cities, ”Campbell said, citing a recent report from the EOLWD titled “The Future of Work”.

The pandemic also accelerated trends that were already underway, such as the expansion of automation and the removal of some traditional roles in the service sector.

“COVID-19 has changed the way Massachusetts residents work, which has accelerated many existing factors that are impacting the future of work, such as the use of e-commerce and the pace of uptake. ‘automation,’ Campbell said. In addition, new factors have emerged (such as the spread of remote and hybrid working and a reduction in business travel). These factors have a different impact on Massachusetts residents depending on the region, region, region. industry, occupation, gender and race. “

According to state data, most jobless claims are filed by residents who worked in health care and social services, followed by retail and restaurants. Brookline restaurants dominate online job postings, with many posts labeled “urgent hire” or including multiple openings.

Campbell said the state was trying to focus on creating new professionals for these fields, promoting the Career Technical Initiative, a public program that encourages the use of vocational schools to expand programs to help adults learn. occupations in demand in the Massachusetts economy.

“The efforts of the administration and the EOLWD are focused on areas that have been identified as having significant needs, such as trades, manufacturing, healthcare, finance and transportation. The Technical Career Initiative is an example of how these shortages are being addressed, ”said Campbell.

Do more with less

The labor shortage has forced Brookline Recreation to “adapt and review our operations to determine how to ‘do more with less”, “Jackson said.

Meanwhile, the department has expanded its job posting locations, relied more on social media, and even increased its pay for some seasonal positions, depending on qualifications and experience, according to Jackson.

“I think we are all hoping that the fall will bring more employees into the workforce, to alleviate the stress on the operations of every facility and program,” Jackson said.

“Let’s keep our fingers crossed because we’re all in the same boat,” she added.

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