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Central Coast employers battle for best employees post COVID-19 lockdown

Posted at 9:28 AM, Jun 25, 2020

As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted across California, shops and restaurants are welcoming back customers but some Central Coast employers are finding it difficult to find qualified employees.

English muffins are the crown jewel at Joliene Bakery in San Luis Obispo. Chloe Fertel, who owns the shop with her husband, can't find staff to bake the bread.

"I'd say we get a lot of applicants for sure, qualified is another story," Fertel said.

Fertel can only offer a starting wage of $13.75 an hour. Convincing experienced pastry chefs to give up their government cheese for crumbs in comparison has proven tough.

"A lot of the service industry people are getting that $600 per week and it's harder for them to give that up to go back into work," USA Staffing Account Exec. Ryan Duclos said.

With restrictions around the service and retail industry loosening up, competition for skilled workers is high.

"When we were first open we had a bigger pond to fish from," Fertel said. "Now that there are all the things you have to factor in, who is offering better tips, wages, hours, better perks, and benefits with their jobs. It seems now we have a lot more competition than we did before."

Duclos said increasing pay is a sure way for employers to compete. When that's not possible, he suggests focusing on the culture.

"A lot of employees are looking for a good culture they want to be part of something," Duclos said. "Make your brand something they're interested in."

At Joliene Bakery, Fertel said a work environment of respect and support is baked in.

"Our shop is entirely rooted in family, everything from the name to special touches to recipes," Fertel said. "We really do believe in treating staff like family. If our employees are happy, customers will be happy."

Joliene Bakery is looking to hire at least three people who have some professional baking experience.

The additional unemployment benefits provided under the cares act are set to expire at the end of July.