Rebecca Sargeant, HR assistant at Pamlico Air in Reno, attended the Reno + Sparks Chamber's Sept. 14 job fair. Pamlico was one of roughly 50 businesses with a booth at the event.
Photo by Kaleb Roedel.
For about a year, Pamlico Air, a North Carolina-based manufacturer of air filters and air filtration products, has been operating a plant in Reno’s North Valleys, running three shifts a day, with 30 to 40 workers on each shift.
The company, however, is looking to at least double its employee base — and has been trying to since it expanded to Reno.
“In our warehouse, we have the ability to run anywhere from 60 to 100 people on a shift at a time,” said Rebecca Sargeant, human resources assistant at Pamlico Air. “So, we’re hiring.”
Pamlico Air was one of a few dozen employee-seeking companies in Northern Nevada that participated in a job fair hosted by the Reno + Sparks Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 14 at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.
“I think it’s good for people to get in person and actually meet with candidates,” Connor Naisbitt, director of operations at the chamber, told the NNBW. “There have been a couple of on-spot interviews and people hired on the spot. We’ve never done job fairs in the past, but one of the highest demand requests from our members is employees, so we’ve made it a pretty big priority for our members.”
Roughly 50 Northern Nevada businesses looking to fill positions participated in a job fair hosted by the Reno + Sparks Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 14 at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. Photo: Kaleb M. RoedelThis was the second job fair hosted by the chamber in the past four months. The first one was held in June and saw more than 100 businesses and a few hundred jobseekers.
The turnout for the Sept. 14 job fair was not as strong. In all, there were about 50 businesses and less than 100 jobseekers in attendance.This is despite the fact that the federally-enhanced unemployment benefits expired Sept. 4. The federal pandemic aid boosted the unemployment payments by $300 a week.
“COVID, of course, has changed everything,” Sargeant said of hiring challenges in Northern Nevada and beyond. “We’ve definitely seen a lot of people applying but not showing up for interviews. They’ll come in and fill out the paperwork, but then they won’t show up.”Pamlico Air is not alone. No-show applicants is something many companies, especially small businesses in the hospitality industry, have been experiencing throughout the pandemic. It’s a trend that has only added to the frustration of businesses that have been in an uphill battle to fill shifts amid the pandemic.
“So many people will call and set up interviews and then they don’t show up,” said Lela Hansen, human resources manager at Kelly Brothers Painting. “I’ve never gotten this before in all my years in human resources, but instead of calling before an interview and saying ‘hey, I can’t make it because of this reason,’ people are calling after they didn’t show up and telling me why they couldn’t make it. It’s the weirdest shift.”
Since COVID hit, Hansen said she has consistently been looking to fill at least 10 open painter positions at the Reno-based company, which serves the greater Reno-Tahoe region. And the staffing woes come during a year when the painting contractor saw a surge of inquiries from homeowners looking to upgrade their living spaces with a fresh coat of paint.
“We do a referral bonus, we have a great training program in place, but it’s hard to find experienced tradesman of any trade,” Hansen said. “The focus was on college for so long and getting that degree that we’ve forgotten how important these trades were.”
In an effort to attract warehouse workers, Sargeant said Pamlico Air has raised its hourly rates in the past year. The plant’s three shifts start out at hourly rates of $16.50, $17.50, and $18, she said.
“There’s a lot of competition, a lot of warehouse and industry in this area,” she said.
The hospitality industry, meanwhile, has not only been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, but the sector has also had perhaps the toughest time hiring during the recovery.
Just ask Chartwells Higher Education, the contracted food service provider for the University of Nevada, Reno, which had a booth at the job fair. The company has had difficulty re-staffing its 12 dining locations on campus since the spring of 2020, said marketing director Heidi Rich.
“Trying to bring those people back on board, through different life circumstances that they were all going through, is a real struggle,” said Rich, who said the dining services workforce at UNR is typically a 50-50 split of student and non-student employees.
As of mid-September, nearly a month since fall semester classes started at UNR, only about 50% of UNR’s dining positions are filled. As a result, they have been forced to shorten the hours of many of the dining locations on campus, Rich said.
“It’s an employee’s market,” she said with a shrug. “They can pick and choose where they want to be, and if they don’t like it, they can pick up and go somewhere else and start basically immediately. So we’re really trying to take care of the employees that we do have.”