Opportunity market in Orangeburg for job seekers | Local

The Orangeburg-area labor market offers plenty of job opportunities, but inflationary pressure is forcing employers to raise wages and get creative to attract workers.

At the Fairey Cheverolet in Orangeburg, general manager Joseph Fairey IV said the biggest challenge was keeping staff.

“We’ve had more sales at our store in the past two years than I’ve experienced by far in any period in the 15 years I’ve been here,” Fairey said. . “Many employees nearing retirement age have left and some, but not all, have been replaced.”

“Because our store has a low turnover rate compared to our industry, many of them were long-serving employees who were difficult to replace,” Fairey said. “We had replacements leaving after a very short time, but we generally had no trouble finding candidates.”

The dealership has 24 full-time employees, down from 28 before the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“We could agree to add a few more people, but we’re pretty close to being fully operational,” he said.

Technician positions are open, as well as two sales positions due to the lack of vehicle inventory.

In order to attract employees, Fairey said the dealership needed to become more flexible to family demands that came up unexpectedly.

“Our base pay for virtually all positions has increased to help employees weather inflationary pressures and competing job opportunities,” he said.

Another challenge facing dealerships and the automotive industry in general remains supply chain issues.

“Supply chain constraints reduced our year-over-year new vehicle shipments by more than 20%,” said Fairey. “Shortages and delays of parts and components have also severely affected the competence of our workshop.”

“We’ve been well booked on our service schedule for two weeks in advance for most of the year, so demand has been high. But completing work in a timely manner is a huge challenge in this environment,” said said Fairey. “Fortunately, we have a great, resilient group of employees and customers are understanding and patient for the most part.”

Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce President James McQuilla said staffing remains a “dilemma” for Orangeburg businesses.

“A lot of business owners say they can find workers, but retaining workers has become the problem,” McQuilla said. “Additionally, depending on the industry, finding employees who have the education, skills, or competencies to meet a company’s needs can still be problematic.”

As a result, McQuilla said business owners and human resource managers need to be more creative and innovative in their hiring practices.

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“The market favors the employee over the employer, so not understanding that the paradigm has changed could be very detrimental to a business,” he said.

“You really have to think outside the box,” McQuilla said. “Maybe higher wages (and lower profits) are the answer. Maybe flexible hours or remote opportunities when possible.”

McQuilla said he wouldn’t be surprised if more opportunities opened up for seniors.

“One of my ‘radical’ suggestions is to see if there can be an expansion of the federal H2A program for guest or migrant workers, especially in the hospitality industry,” a- he declared.

YMCA of Orangeburg County executive director Demetrius Hardy said the situation for employees has seen “marginal improvement” over the past year.

“We’re still understaffed in the water park,” Hardy said, adding that the Y was only able to open the water park one day a week in Orangeburg and one day a week in Santee this summer. It was the same as in 2021.

Hardy said the perennial problem is that lifeguards need a two-year certification and if individuals aren’t recertified they can’t be on staff. He said a number of lifeguards have moved on to college internships and paid internships, leaving lifeguard duties behind.

In addition to lifeguards, Hardy said there are general staffing needs, particularly at reception where members log in and register. He said most of those people are in the college age groups and are local college athletes who aren’t available after the summer. Members of the child care team are also needed.

Hardy said that to increase employment, a salary increase has been implemented across the board. But because the Y is a non-profit organization, such increases must be made carefully so as not to have to increase membership fees.

Hardy said the Y is partnering with the Orangeburg County School District and local universities and colleges to try to inspire young people to become lifeguards.

The Y is also looking for local businesses to help sponsor a lifeguard training at a total of $225 to become certified, he said. The goal is to train and certify 50 new lifeguards and swim instructors this fall.

The training is a three-day course that includes both in-water and classroom training. He hopes the sponsorships will encourage those who want to become lifeguards but cannot afford the cost of certification.

“We’re looking to build the next generation of lifeguards,” Hardy said, adding that he’s been working with 14- and 15-year-olds with basic water skills in hopes of laying the groundwork for certification. of lifeguard.

Anyone interested in becoming a certified lifeguard is encouraged to come to the YMCA and begin the process.

In honor of Labor Day, Hardy recognized all of the employees working at the Y.

“We certainly appreciate all the effort people make to work here,” he said. “If you work at the YMCA for pay, you’re not going to stay very long. You have to find joy in the little moments of success and comfort.”

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For example, he says one thing he loves is being able to share times when people have experienced health and wellness benefits from being a Y member.

“Our members become like an extended family,” Hardy said.

Calhoun Oil Company Inc. President Boyd McLeod III said things have improved since last summer.

Calhoun Oil oversees convenience stores in Orangeburg, Calhoun and Sumter counties. The company also operates two Bojangles restaurants – one in Orangeburg and another in Santee.

“We saw a dramatic increase in applications in March,” McLeod said. “We have seen turnover, but we also see more prospects.”

“We continue to struggle in some stores with first shift workers,” he said. “We also probably need a few executives, but I put that down to retirement age versus turnover.”

“We are working on implementing new procedures to help recruit employees and communicate,” McLeod said. “We did some of the same things that many retailers have done to try to attract employees.”

McLeod said the company has also increased wages since COVID began.

“Trucking has definitely improved,” he said. “Last year we struggled to meet demand as no one was flying and demand was at an all time high. This year demand is below 2019 levels and trucking issues have decreased.”

“I’m contributing to lower demand, high fuel prices and record numbers of people flying. It’s slowed fuel sales,” he said. “Our stores are still short of employees, but sales are back to more normal numbers compared to last year.”

The latest unemployment rates had Bamberg County with the third-highest unemployment rate in the state at 6.4% for the month of July. This is down from 8.6% at the same time last year. Last year, Bamberg County had the highest unemployment rate in the state in July.

Orangeburg County’s unemployment rate in July was 5.8%, down from the 7.9% it had in July 2021. The county had the fourth highest unemployment rate in the state.

South Carolina Department of Labor and Employment Director of Labor Market Information, Dr. Bryan Grady, noted that while unemployment rates have declined from there a year later, the two counties remain among the highest in the state, “indicating that the extremely tight labor market seen elsewhere in the state has not reached these areas.”

Calhoun County’s rate for July was 3.5%, down from the 4.9% rate in July 2021. Calhoun County was tied for the 18th highest unemployment rate in the state. Chesterfield and Lancaster counties had the same rate.

Grady said there are many more job opportunities for job seekers than a year ago.

“In the Lower Savannah Workforce Development Area (which includes the T&D region) according to our labor supply versus labor demand analysis, there is had 11,853 job openings in July 2022, compared to 7,419 in July 2021,” Grady said. “While there was about one job offer per unemployed person a year ago, there are now more than two.”

Grady says businesses continue to struggle to hire, especially in traditionally low-paying jobs like catering.

“With the rate of job openings well above pre-pandemic levels (167,000 statewide in June, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), workers have more options and can find a job that pays more, offers more flexibility, or meets their needs better,” Gradi said. “Companies unable to make competitive offers risk suffering.”

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Grady said labor demand continues to be as high as a year ago, although the pool of available labor continues to shrink.

“It’s important to note that there are two sides to the coin. However, a ‘labour shortage’ means employers are extremely eager to hire,” Grady said. “That means the state’s economy continues to grow at a healthy pace.”

Grady said continued interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve will likely cool the labor market to some degree over the next year.

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