Local businesses are going the extra mile to offer incentives in hopes of drawing applicants and employees.
In August, there were 26,000 available jobs in the South Dakota, with many businesses of virtually every industry struggling to fill open positions. Now, that number has gone up to more than 27,000.
There are about 1,200 open positions in Aberdeen and 1,000 in Watertown, according to statistics from the state. A quick search for local job openings online reveals many open positions in the hospitality industry, for mechanics and in food service.
In June, there were about 10 million jobs open in the country. The demand for workers is causing wages to rise, with many companies struggling to keep up.
House of Glass in Aberdeen struggled to fill its positions for several years. But the problem has been made even worse due to the pandemic, said Sales and Marketing Specialist Teressa Barton.
"It's been even more challenging now with COVID," said Barton. "We've just been so busy to keep up with everything."
House of Glass is a local, privately owned company, she said. The business currently employs about 40 people and is looking to take on at least 10 more. It's looking for overheard door technicians, skilled carpenters and glaziers.
Barton said one of the draws of working at House of Glass is that there is room to move up. An employee is also eligible for a raise after a probation period. Barton said the business has several opportunities for bonuses throughout the year as opposed to offering a sign-on bonus.
She said the company plans to ramp up its recruitment process throughout the year to fill the open positions.
And there are programs to help out companies that are looking for people with specific skillsets, such as carpenters or engineers. The Workforce Recruitment Program kicked off in October and focuses on drawing workers to the community, said Taylor Hanson, director of business development for the Aberdeen Development Corp.
The $95,000 grant was issued by the Governor's Office of Economic Development and is in partnership with Aberdeen and the Aberdeen Area Chamber of Commerce. It allows companies to use up to $5,000 per person on things like relocation expenses, whether those be a trailer for moving or the cost of breaking a lease. To qualify, the employee must have a starting wage of at least $20 per hour. Job candidates must be moving into the community from another state.
The program can also be used to create other incentives, such as a sign-on bonus or upskilling. For example, a company could use a program to pay for an employee's schooling so they can be promoted to a higher position with a higher pay.
And it seems others have used this concept as well: a Facebook job posting for a material handler at Manpower, which is a local recruitment agency, offers potential employees competitive wages as well as free college courses and skill training.
Several jobs offer sign-on bonuses
Many companies are also offering sign-on bonuses, with places like Taco Bell and Avantara Clark offering some form of a bonus program.
Watertown Truck and Trailer currently has seven employees, said Service Manager Craig Buss.
The business is currently looking for a parts counter salesperson and a service technician. While the sales position has been open for about three weeks, the service technician position has been open for about two years.
He said the company is willing to extensively train a candidate for the job, which is essentially a full-time mechanical job. But while the position would offer about $18 to $19 per hour, regional cities such as Mankato, Minn., pay as much as $30 an hour, said Buss. So while many people may get the necessary education at nearby Lake Area Technical College, competitive wages make it difficult to fill the position.
The service technician job comes with a $2,500 sign-on bonus, he said. In addition, if a current employee makes a referral, that person will get a $500 bonus.
Watertown also has a workforce recruitment program through Watertown Works to hire out-of-state workers, but Buss said he's heard of several people getting nowhere with their applications.
There are a few things that companies can do to make people more likely to apply for jobs, South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation Secretary Marcia Hultman wrote in an email. The department recommends that companies be flexible with who they hire, such as retirees or youth. Considering wages is also important, as employees are now more carefully considering what their worth is. It's also recommended that employers list the pay - or at least a range - on job listings, as they're more likely to get noticed.
To view job opportunities in the state, visit https://www.southdakotaworks.org.
This article originally appeared on Aberdeen News: How businesses are trying to fill job openings