Opportunity market in Orangeburg for job seekers | Sweetened

The Orangeburg region labor market has ample job opportunities, but inflationary pressures require employers to raise wages and be creative in attracting workers.

At Fairey Cheverolet in Orangeburg, General Manager Joseph Fairey IV said employee retention was the biggest challenge.

“We’ve had more sales in our store in the last two years than I’ve had in any period in the 15 years I’ve been here,” Ferry said. “A lot of 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 have been long-term employees and they have been difficult to replace,” Ferry said. “We’ve had replacements leave after a very short time, but overall we had no trouble finding applicants.”

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

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“We can afford to add a few more people but we are fairly close to operating at full capacity,” he said.

Technician positions are open, along with two sales positions due to a lack of vehicle inventory.

In order to attract staff, Ferry said the agency must become more flexible regarding unexpected family demands.

“Our base pay for each position has gone up to help employees keep up with inflationary pressures and competing job opportunities,” he said.

Another challenge facing the agency and the auto industry in general remains supply chain issues.

“Supply chain restrictions have reduced year-over-year shipments of new cars by more than 20%,” Ferry said. “The shortage of parts and components and delays have greatly affected the efficiency of our store as well.”

“We’ve been firmly booked into our service schedule two weeks in advance most of the year, so demand has been strong. But completing jobs in a timely manner is a huge challenge in this environment,” Ferry said. “Fortunately, we have a large group of flexible employees and clients who are often understanding and patient.”

James McQuilla, president of the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce, said hiring remains a “dilemma” for Orangeburg companies.

“Many business owners say they can find workers, however, retaining workers has become the problem,” Makuela said. Additionally, depending on the industry, finding employees who have the education, competency, or skill set needed to meet the needs of the company may still be a problem.

As a result, Makuela said, business owners and human resource managers should 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 model has changed can be very detrimental to the business,” he said.

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

Makuela said he wouldn’t be surprised if more opportunities started opening up for seniors.

“One of my ‘extreme’ suggestions is to see if the federal H2A program can be expanded to guest or immigrant workers, particularly in the hospitality and restaurant industry,” he said.

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

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

The perennial problem, Hardy said, is that lifeguards require a two-year certification and if individuals are not rehabilitated, they cannot be on the task force. He said a number of lifeguards have moved on to college training periods and paid internships, leaving lifeguard jobs behind.

In addition to lifeguards, Hardy said there are general staff needs, particularly at the front desk where members check in and register. He said that most of these individuals are in college age groups and are athletes at local universities and are not around after the summer. Childcare team members are also needed.

In order to increase employment, the wage increase has been implemented across the board, Hardy said. But since Y is a non-profit organization, these increases must be done carefully so you don’t have to increase membership fees.

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

Y is also looking for local companies to help sponsor training for a lifeguard totaling $225 to become certified, he said. The goal is to train and certify 50 new lifeguards and swimming coaches this fall.

The training is a three-day course that includes training in the water and in the classroom. He hopes the sponsorship will encourage those who want to become lifeguards but can’t afford to be certified.

“We look forward to building the next generation of lifeguards,” Hardy said, adding that he works with 14- to 15-year-olds with basic water skills in hopes of laying the groundwork for lifeguard certification.

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

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

“We certainly appreciate all the efforts people are making to work here,” he said. “If you work in the YMCA for a salary, you won’t stay long. You have to find joy in the little moments of success and comfort.”

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For example, he says that one of the things he enjoys is being able to share times when individuals enjoy health and well-being benefits by being a member of Y.

“Our members became like a big family,” Hardy said.

Things have improved since last summer, said Boyd MacLeod III, president of Calhoun Oil.

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

“We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of applications starting in March,” MacLeod said. “We’ve seen turnover but we’re also seeing more opportunities.”

“We still struggle in some stores with first-shift employees,” he said. “We may also need a few management staff, but I attribute that to retirement versus employee turnover.”

“We are working on new procedures to help bring in staff and connect,” MacLeod said. “We’ve done some of the same things that many retailers have done to try to attract employees.”

MacLeod said the company has also increased wages since the onset of COVID.

“Trucking has definitely improved,” he said. “Last year we struggled to keep up with demand because no one was flying and demand was at an all-time high. This year demand is below 2019 levels and trucking problems have diminished.”

“I am contributing to the drop in demand in higher fuel prices and record numbers of passengers. This has slowed fuel sales,” he said. “Our stores are still understaffed but sales are back to more normal numbers compared to last year.”

Bamberg County’s latest unemployment rate is the third-highest in the state at 6.4% for the month of July. That was down from 8.6% last year at the same time. Last year, Bamberg County had the highest unemployment rate in the state for the month of July.

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

Dr. Brian Grady, director of labor market information for the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce, noted that while unemployment rates are down compared to last year, both counties remain among the highest in the state,” indicating that the extremely tight labor market seen in Other places in the US state did not reach these areas.”

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

Grady said there are more job opportunities for job seekers than last year.

“In the Lower Savannah Workforce Development District (which includes the T&D District) according to the labor supply versus job demand analysis, there were 11,853 vacancies in July 2022, compared to 7,419 in July 2021,” Grady said. “Whereas there was roughly one job for every unemployed person a year ago, there are now more than two.”

Grady says companies still have trouble hiring, especially in low-paying jobs such as food service.

“With the job opportunity rate well above pre-pandemic levels (167,000 statewide in June, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics), workers have more choices and can find a job that pays more, offers additional flexibility, or better meets their needs. “Companies that are unable to offer competitive bids are likely to suffer,” Grady said.

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Grady said the demand for labor remains as high as it was a year ago, although the pool of available labor continues to shrink.

“It is important to note that there are two sides of the coin,” Grady said. “However, the ‘labour shortage’ means that employers are very keen on hiring.” “This means that the country’s economy continues to grow at a strong pace.”

Grady said continued interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve is likely to calm the labor market somewhat over the next year.

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