Though there has been a labor shortage nationwide, Northwest has been battling problems of its own when it comes to student employees and applications.
Paula McLain, coordinator of student employment, said there may not be a shortage of student employees just yet, but there are less applications being seen in comparison to previous semesters.
“This is kind of the prime time to be hiring,” McLain said. “I would say that there are not as many applications that we normally see per job.”
Job opportunities haven’t been a problem, as McLain said that there was an overwhelming amount at the beginning of the semester. Usually it takes 24 to 48 hours to post a job, but there were so many that Human Resources needed another day or two to post them.
McLain said that the difference in application submissions from this year compared to previous years is a mystery to her, but it’s not only a campus issue. Northwest offers community job postings on the student employment page, and McLain said there have been issues with community postings getting student applicants.
“I had an off-campus person that reached out to me and said ‘I have had no applicants, none, and I think it is a job that I think would be of interest to an education major,’ and I was very surprised,” McLain said. “I’ve never had that happen.”
McLain said the wage rate isn’t the problem when it comes to employment; the job posting that had no applications had a starting rate of 14 dollars an hour.
The average wage at Northwest is around $8.60 an hour, but can be anywhere up to $9.50 an hour. Full-time students must be paid at least the federal minimum wage according to the Department of Labor.
“At this point, what we are seeing in the community right now, I’m not certain it is just the wage rate,” she said.
Another issue is that some student employers are getting into the hiring process later than they had the year before. Though the pandemic had many negative impacts on the community, being able to do interviews over Zoom sped up the hiring process.
Supervisors were able to interview students who weren’t on campus before they came back in the fall or spring semester, allowing the majority of the process to be completed online.
“They were ahead of the game when it came to the fall semester,” McLain said. “Before, supervisors would wait until classes started because they’d be on campus and want to see them in person, whereas when COVID-19 hit, that wasn’t a viable option.”
This year, McLain said, employers are likely switching back to in-person interviews, which could have slowed down the process and made it look like those job postings were up longer.
The pandemic caused many to change their career paths according to USA Today; similarly, McLain said that reevaluation of priorities and what they are interested in may have caused the lack of interest in student employment.
McLain said student employees are vital to the success and operations of the University, and they are relied on like the full-time employees. Without those student employees, the workload for everyone in the office is shifted.
“We are behind schedule a little bit, so I don’t know if that’s the impact right now, but I can tell a difference in our workload because we are short student employees in our office,” McLain said.
When a department does have a job posting, it is typically only there for three business days. McLain said that in previous years, supervisors wanted postings removed after three days because they were getting so many applicants, but this year, she has had many requests to extend their job postings.
The Bearcat Caller position has been on the job postings board since Sept. 7 and is still there because the University hires anywhere from 20 to 40 students, not because of a lack of applications.
Turnover is another problem that occurs with student employment.
“What tends to happen is that students overcommit,” McLain said. “The first thing they look at to cut is the job. Right around the middle of the semester, the influx goes up.”
Aramark, the service that provides food and catering to the University, said that while there seems like an decrease in student employees, this is not uncommon.
Spencer Martin, Aramark senior food service director, said turnover has led to the increase in postings seen through Aramark.
“Maybe some students think they can manage the load then get behind and drop some hours or shifts, so we routinely post new positions that are currently filled in order to generate applicants and keep the labor pool up in case we need to replace positions,” Martin said.
Despite all the reasons as to why there is a possible lack of interest in student employment or a lack of applicants to jobs in the community, there seems to be no definitive answer from the University standpoint.
“I wish I knew,” McLain said. “It’s a mystery to me.”