WINTER HAVEN — For those who’re in search of a job, Legoland Florida Resort desires to be your introduction to the theme park trade.
The household trip vacation spot is trying to fill greater than 350 part-time and full-time positions forward of the summer time tourism season, park president Rex Jackson stated. That is about half of the general positions that have been wanted when the corporate began aggressively recruiting final month.
Legoland is only one of a number of Polk employers attempting to bulk up on workers. The labor scarcity continues to be an issue for native companies, although some job seekers say regardless of the plethora of assist needed indicators, they can not land a job.
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The necessity to convey new workers to Legoland – greater than 600 in complete – is a mirrored image of the tourism upswing the Central Florida market is feeling after virtually a yr of financial turmoil introduced on by COVID-19 lockdowns and well being considerations. From capability restrictions to masks mandates, theme parks needed to make main changes to outlive after they have been allowed to initially reopen final summer time.
Following a latest announcement from the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention declaring vaccinated people don’t have to put on masks or socially distance at out of doors or indoor areas, a number of theme parks adjusted their guidelines. At Legoland, being absolutely vaccinated clears you from having to put on a face protecting, although adherence to the coverage is based mostly on the consideration system. The park can also be working at full capability, Jackson stated.
Legoland has seen an inflow of vacationers in 2021, with the “tipping level” being spring break.
“We noticed a variety of demand, a variety of pent-up demand and a variety of households that have been extraordinarily excited to return again out,” Jackson stated. “The truth that we’re speaking a couple of restoration that’s taking a look at attendance ranges and lodge bookings which are going to be on par with or above 2019 is important as a result of it definitely exceeds the expectations when it comes to how fast folks would come again to theme parks and to tourism.”
Whereas it might be an excellent signal for the tourism and hospitality industries and their financial restoration, it does current a brand new problem: staffing.
Whereas theme parks are often in want of additional palms on deck for the summer time season, Jackson stated they wanted much more folks this yr as a result of they have been ranging from a decrease worker base. Since Legoland had beforehand been working at a decrease capability than regular, the park wanted fewer workers main as much as this second. However now, it is all palms on deck, particularly because the resort must workers all three of its on-site motels.
And Legoland is providing model new incentives. For one, the park has raised its base pay from $9 an hour to $10.50, which Jackson stated occurred after the corporate reviewed its compensation charges towards different Polk employers.
And you may rake in much more dough when you resolve to use with any of the corporate’s open meals and beverage positions, which is the place Legoland is seeing essentially the most “important want.”
“For meals and beverage positions each within the park and in our motels, we’re providing a $500 signing bonus that’s payable on the conclusion of 90 days of employment,” Jackson stated. “We’re seeing a big improve in tourism and that is induced us to need to reopen a variety of eating places that beforehand we did not have as a consequence of decrease attendance than we have had traditionally.”
Jackson stated Legoland must “shut the hole” in worker numbers created by the pandemic. Although positions are wanted to workers the park for the summer time, Legoland doesn’t sometimes rent on a seasonal foundation and Jackson stated the workers will proceed to be wanted for deliberate fall and winter occasions.
Jobs open throughout Polk County
However Legoland has to compete with a number of different industries throughout Polk County scrambling to beat staffing shortages.
Sean Malott, president and CEO of the Central Florida Growth Council, stated the county has a “very tight labor market,” resulting in excessive competitors as the complete nation battles a labor scarcity.
“It is already aggressive and subsequently now you convey into the combination COVID and the entire different issues that we’re challenged with as an space,” Malott stated. “For those who’re an worker in Polk County, you will have extra choices now than ever. Those who need good jobs, there are extra alternatives now than ever to have the ability to actually discover a match that works nicely for folks.”
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Whereas unemployment stays excessive, Malott famous, “there are extra folks working now than there ever has been within the historical past of Polk County.”
Along with pay will increase, Malott stated he is seen attention-grabbing recruiting incentives, akin to corporations providing higher snacks within the break room or putting in model new TVs to entice new workers and retain outdated ones.
Katie Worthington, president and CEO of the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce, stated the town is certainly feeling the stress.
“My members are telling me that that is the worst labor disaster they’ve skilled, and it crosses trade sectors,” Worthington stated in an e mail. “It is not simply the hospitality sector. It’s insurance coverage, healthcare, finance, and so forth. As in Lakeland, there are assist needed indicators in lots of home windows, particularly for entry-level positions.”
Companies are beginning to get determined. Whereas some corporations might use the steadily recovering economic system and the enhance from summer time tourism to develop, the shortage of workers makes enlargement in lots of instances unimaginable.
“Day by day is a day too lengthy,” Malott stated. “It does look like we’re on the upswing however once more, day by day companies cannot discover the folks they want or haven’t got sufficient of the folks they want is simply too lengthy.”
Potential workers unnoticed within the chilly
With companies on the hunt for workers, it is left some unemployed people in Polk asking: why can I nonetheless not discover a job?
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Deidre Nelson, 47, has spent 5 months trying to find work. Due to points with a enterprise companion, she voluntarily left a job at an animal hospital and has been sending out functions ever since, notably within the restaurant enterprise.
“It has been completely horrible. You already know, placing out functions time and time once more,” Nelson stated. “But I drive down the highway day by day and for the previous, God is aware of what number of months, they nonetheless have assist needed indicators.”
Nelson stated she’s utilized to not less than 30 jobs and gotten no bites. She stated regardless of her intensive expertise within the restaurant and veterinary fields, she will’t even meet with a supervisor face-to-face.
“How can so many individuals be out right here desperately looking for employment and everyone’s screaming ‘We’d like assist, we’d like assist’ … And why aren’t they, why are they not taking folks in?” Nelson stated. “There have been instances the place I’ve sat and I’ve cried as a result of I do not perceive. I do not perceive how anyone who had each qualification that an employer would search for in an worker not a lot as even be introduced in for an interview.”
Invoice Hunt, 58, is in the identical boat. He stated he has been with out long-term employment for greater than a yr and utilized for a whole bunch of positions.
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Firstly of the pandemic, Hunt misplaced his job. He spent 24 weeks working for the town of Fort Meade underneath a Careersource Polk program, however on the finish of his tenure there, the town did not have the funds to rent him full-time.
Hunt wants to discover a job quickly, as his lease expires on the finish of the month. However, to place it in his personal phrases, “it is a mess on the market.”
“There isn’t any rhyme, there isn’t any purpose,” Hunt stated. “After which the opposite facet of it, there’s jobs that you need to flip down as a result of the mathematics would not work. Each place that is renting an condominium, a spot to reside, desires 3 times earnings proper now.”
Hunt stated the most cost effective he is seen for flats is about $1,000. The typical hire in Lakeland is $1,165, with solely 29% of flats falling within the $700-$1,000 hire monthly vary.
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“You do the mathematics — gotta make virtually $17 an hour to get to that $3,000. What number of jobs are you aware of on this market which are paying $17 and above?” Hunt stated. “You need to flip jobs down. In any other case, you are taking the job and you don’t have any place to reside to be able to go to work the following day.”
Issues are about to worsen for unemployed people in Florida. Along with reinstating the requirement that calls for proof of job searches from these looking for unemployment advantages, Florida has joined different states in ending federal unemployment advantages early. Beginning June 26, Floridians will not be eligible to obtain pandemic-era $300 checks from the federal authorities and can solely be eligible for as much as $275 per week from the state, one of many lowest profit packages within the nation.
Termination of the additional, pandemic-era unemployment advantages is one thing companies have pushed for.
“I believe that the governor making a few of these modifications will assist type of flush out among the folks which are edging on whether or not to get again into the labor market or not,” Malott stated.
However economists have warned that the unemployment profit is probably not the one factor retaining folks again. Lack of childcare choices is only one instance of an element unaffected by unemployment checks, one that may turn into extra outstanding as faculties shut for the summer time.
Worthington stated that whereas chamber members consider the unemployment enhance helped depress the labor market, there are different points at play.
“Everyone seems to be attempting to ramp up employment on the identical time, which definitely creates a pressure on accessible new hires,” Worthington stated. “We additionally hear from members that immigration is decrease, folks have determined to go away the hospitality sector altogether, and girls leaving the workforce to remain house as a consequence of difficulties with childcare and education. We’ve additionally heard from members that they’ve a variety of workers deciding to retire early.”
Maya Lora can finest be reached with ideas or questions at [email protected] Comply with her on Twitter @mayaklora.