Wilmington’s staffing shortage hits community and public services hardest

Wilmington’s staffing shortage hits community and public services hardest
Published: Jun. 28, 2022 at 2:02 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The City of Wilmington is working to address staffing shortages across the city, and while public safety applicants are on the rise, the city’s biggest need right now is in the community and public services areas. Employees like tree trimmers and other landscapers, parks and rec services, and people to fill in potholes and make repairs to sidewalks are the positions that are the most vacant.

From the COVID-19 pandemic to high numbers of baby boomers retiring, there are plenty of reasons the city, and businesses around the country are struggling to fill up staff. But through technology and increased incentives, the city is working to fill those gaps.

“Currently, today, we have 90 vacancies across the organization. Our turnover rate is 15%, which is the highest it’s been in the last five years. Half of our vacancies are in our public services and our community services, organizations, and those organizations do critical work for the community,” Clayton Roberts, the city’s assistant director of Human Resources said.

While the private sector can offer competitive pay, working for the city has a competitive pay scale, and benefits that others don’t offer. And for those who might not have experience, the city is offering a chance to get on-the-job training.

“It’s a great opportunity for folks that have very limited experience to to come in learn a new skill, we will train people that have, if they don’t have, we have a CDL we’ll train him to get that CDL license,” Roberts said.

That alone can save folks money since getting your commercial drivers license can get expensive.

The impacts of a staffing shortage is something residents can see for themselves. Public Services Director Dave Mayes says without the staff, projects will take longer to get done.

“If we simply don’t have enough people, it’s going to mean that something that we need to get done just remains on the list for longer. And we have a long back list of things like repairs to drainage pipes, doing pavement repair in the street, those issues will remain issues much longer if we don’t get more staff to come in and actually perform that work,” he said.

In the meantime, the city is getting creative and relying on new technology to hopefully keep up with demand for services, for example, a remote controlled lawnmower can help relieve some of the pressure.

“That can be operated by one person, they can remain in a safe distance away and not not on a sloped ditch bank or stream bank, as you said, so, it still requires people but it’s much safer operation for sure,” Mayes said.

Wilmington is hosting a job fair on Wednesday, at Legion Stadium from 9 a.m. until noon, with dozens of positions to fill.

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