Workforce woes: Why businesses may be struggling to bring back workers

150 companies searching for workers during job fair at Central Florida Fairgrounds

More than 150 companies set up inside a hall at the Central Florida Fairgrounds Wednesday for the 25th annual Central Florida’s Employment Council’s Job Fair.

ORLANDO, Fla. – More than 150 companies set up inside a hall at the Central Florida Fairgrounds Wednesday for the 25th annual Central Florida’s Employment Council’s Job Fair.

Many of the businesses struggling to bring back staff, bringing in their best and most competitive offers.

“We were ready and prepared for a couple of thousand job seekers today, but we averaged about 500-600,” said Paulette Weir, event organizer. “We don’t know where they are at, where the job seekers are at.”

Companies are getting creative, offering $1,000 sign on bonuses, on the spot job offers, high hourly wages and even Amazon gift cards just for setting up an interview.

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“We are offering $1,000 sign on bonus for select positions,” said Brandon Miller, training manager for Palmas Restaurant Group which serves at several restaurants at Walt Disney World Resort. “We believe it’s a way to not only get people to apply and interview with us but a way to retain those individuals.”

According to the latest jobs report from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, tourism and leisure jobs were the hardest hit during the pandemic. That statistic reflected in the fact that the Orlando metro area had the most job loss in the entire state this year with 154,800 jobs lost.

As tourists return, the fear for those companies in the tourism industry is they won’t be staffed up in time for summer.

“We are playing catch up to get as many people on board as possible to help us run our businesses at the capacity we are at right now,” Miller added.

News 6 spoke to some job seekers, wanting to know what has prevented them from getting back into the workforce.

For Isabel Jimenez, who was let go from her job at a luggage store at the airport, it was holding out for a call back. However, as international travel hasn’t returned that call never came, she said.

“Thank God for the unemployment and everything the IRS gave us, it was a good help, thank God I had survived,” she said. “But now it’s time go back to work.”

Jimenez also said she had a fear of the risk of getting COVID-19 but has also since been vaccinated and feels comfortable to come back.

“Get vaccinated, do your thing, get out and get a job. That’s what we need to do,” Jimenez added.

Jimenez was offered a job Wednesday afternoon.

As for job seeker, Keith Sherrer, he was furloughed from his $60,000/year job last year.

“It’s difficult finding something that is going to pay me a comparable salary,” he said.

He is now overdrawn on his savings and overqualified he believes. Some companies are offering jobs starting at $18 an hour, but the same company is also offering other positions at $11/hour.

“It seems like I’m overqualified for positions or most of them aren’t paying enough at all, I got bills to pay,” he added. “$15 an hour is not going to cut it, it’s not.”

However, as more time passes Sherrer said he’s ready to return.

“I’m willing to do anything,” he said. “I have a perfect attendance record, great customer service skills and I just need a job.”