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Dan River Region governments still having a tough time finding workers

Dan River Region governments still having a tough time finding workers

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More than a month after enhanced unemployment benefits expired, local governments continue to grapple with challenges finding workers.

The city of Danville has 47 job postings on its website, which is not much of a difference since June, when the city had 52 job openings in a variety of departments, despite recently increasing pay ranges for municipal positions and offering a more generous benefits package.

“We have not seen much of a change from that,” said Danville human resources director Sara Weller. “I was hoping we would.”

Danville has roughly 1,200 full-time and part-time employees.

Since the pandemic began in March 2020, the city has seen a marked decline in applications, Weller said.

The city received 111 applications from Oct. 1-13, a nearly 50% decline from the 207 filled out and sent to the city during the same period in 2019, according to figures from Weller.

In 2020, the total number of job applications to the city dropped to 5,367 from 7,998 in 2019, she said. The city has received 4,055 applications so far this calendar year, Weller said.

The ending of enhanced unemployment benefits on Sept. 1 — more than a month ago — has not made a difference, Weller said.

A combination of factors have contributed to the decrease in applications during the pandemic, she said. They include fears of catching COVID-19 in the workplace, the temporary closure of schools and day care centers, as well as the recently expired enhanced unemployment benefits.

“It’s multifaceted,” Weller said.

Besides increased salaries, more vacation time and implementation of parental leave for employees, the city is also trying to attract workers through marketing with radio ads, social media, newspapers and magazines, Weller said.

The city also has its CareTeam health clinic for employees and their families who are under the city’s insurance plan, Weller said.

A study by the Bridgewater-based consultant, the Berkley Group, recommended the city increase the pay ranges of some city positions to bring salaries up to par with other similar communities.

The study, completed in January 2020, recommended establishing new pay ranges based on “market average minimums and best practices” and adjusting employee pay to the minimum, where the salary is too low.

It also recommended funding performance increases at the highest level possible and revise pay policies to align them with pay scales in similar communities.

The study included salary comparisons with other localities of similar size and those the city is losing talent to.

The study was conducted and completed before the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic caused a major slowdown in economic activity and a surge in unemployment.

Pittsylvania County human resources director Holly Stanfield said the county has experienced difficulty filling open positions for the past several months in areas including social services, finance and information management.

“Some of the more difficult positions to fill are in solid waste, social services and the sheriff’s [office],” Stanfield said in a statement Wednesday.

A $1,000 sign-on bonus has been “a helpful tool to attract new employees to join our organization,” she said.

To showcase the county’s workforce and to stand out among job searchers, the county has launched a campaign that has included a portal where potential applicants can tell county officials about themselves and why they want to work for their local government, Stanfield said.

Over the past few years, the county has taken steps to improve employees’ experience and the workplace culture, she said. An employee evaluation and development program, merit-based raises based on the results of those evaluations, employee communications initiatives, a wellness program, enhanced employee benefits, and increased employee training opportunities are just a few of the initiatives that have been put in place, according to county officials.


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