Back to school leaves stores short-staffed
|By Sue Tiffin - Staff Writer | September 9, 2015|
The second last week of summer in the Highlands is generally the first of two weeks when heavy consumer traffic begins to decline and seasonal staff returns to school. This year, businesses around the county noted the week was much busier than in years past.
“If that’s a trend, it’s very interesting,” said Chamber of Commerce manager Rosemarie Jung.
As the seasonal traffic tapers off, Jung said businesses in the area can usually comfortably rearrange their staffing as high school students prepare to go back to school and college students prepare to leave the area. Last week proved difficult for some businesses that had to manage unexpectedly high traffic with less staff.
“We’re often held captive to our students leaving, and rightfully so, as they need to get to college in different communities and get settled,” she said. “It’s typically a struggle for business to have a staff complement in place and it’s a double-edged sword when business continues as usual.”
Kawartha Dairy warehouse manager Dwayne Warburton said the staff in the warehouse noticed an increase in sales compared to years past.
“We saw there seemed to be more people around, and it was busier,” he said.
Warburton hired seven students on for the summer, but several of the staff members have decided to continue working rather than return to school.
“Some aren’t going back because they want to earn more money for school,” said Warburton.
Warburton said this is good news for the dairy as long-term employees are preferable to avoid needing to retrain staff each summer.
McKeck’s staff manager Karen Frybort hires an additional 12 staff members each summer and many return to school in the fall.
“It’s an adjustment, it’s a bit of a stress on everyone who remains, because we’re tired too at the end of the summer,” she said.
She said her seasonal staff worked hard during a very busy summer. Some wanted as many hours as possible to help pay for tuition, including one server who was new to the hospitality industry.
“She easily could have curled into a fetal position on the floor and said, ‘I can’t handle this,’ but she slugged it out and worked very hard because she wanted to make money,” said Frybort.
Frybort said her staff was prepared to experience a rush at the end of summer because of the September Labour Day.
“We were clued in, we had a feeling, so we were ready,” she said. “We just smiled through it and kept going.”
After 23 seasons, Frybort has seen many seasonal staff through the busy summers and through their post-secondary years. She said she keeps in touch with many of them.
When she asked one staff member if she might return after finishing her last year of college, Frybort knew it was coming when the staff member told her she hoped to have a ‘real job’ then.
“That’s a little bittersweet,” she said. “This is a real job for us here. It allows us to live here year-round. But I understand, she wants something in her field.”
Frybort hopes the seasonal employees take with them the strong values they’ve learned as staff in a busy restaurant during a high-traffic time and can apply it to their post-schooling lives. She said the positions left open after seasonal staff leave are sometimes still available to anyone in the community looking to work.
SUE TIFFIN is a reporter for The Highlander.