In a job market that's still rebounding from near-depression, one area employer can't find enough entry-level workers for positions where the pay and benefits are negotiated by a Teamsters local.
Second and third shifts at the York County-owned and operated Pleasant Acres Nursing Home & Rehabilitation Center have been severely short-staffed for the past year, and the county and the union representing the workers have teamed up to try to address the shortage.
While the staffing level meets state guidelines, Pleasant Acres human resources manager Tracy Williams said existing staff must hustle to pick up the slack.
"If you're supposed to have 10 people on a floor and you have three, you're working extremely hard," Williams said, noting the 375-bed facility is operating at or near capacity. "They're taking good care of the residents, but they're working very hard."
Most of the vacant positions are certified nursing assistants, those whose job descriptions include taking vital signs and assisting residents with personal hygiene.
About 40 of the 200 nursing assistant positions aren't filled, Williams said.
She attributed the shortage to a decision by local schools to stop offering as many certified nursing assistant classes, a shift in trends that started about a year ago, she said.
Classes: HACC offers classes on site at Pleasant Acres, but the attendee must pay for the $1,000 course in advance, she said.
The county will reimburse the full tuition if certain criteria area met, such as working the required number of hours and passing a test, she said.
Employees can start working for $12.15 per hour prior to taking the course, however. The hourly pay is bumped to $12.75 for those who pass the course, she said.
Herb Garber, who represents the nursing assistants for Teamsters Local No. 776, said the shortage seems to be specific to York County and to government jobs.
He also represents Teamsters at Hershey Medical Center, and that private entity doesn't have openings, he said.
"There may be an issue with the pay rate, as municipal governments tend to pay less and in exchange they offer various benefits such as holidays, personal time off, and health benefits," he said.
They're "good jobs," he said, and he's baffled about why so few people apply for jobs where workers have union advocates guarding the work conditions and bargaining for pay and benefits.
Work conditions would improve for current employees if more people would apply for the open positions, he said.
Solving the problem: Vice president county commissioner Doug Hoke said Teamsters and the county are discussing ways to attract new candidates, including recently opening second-shift to part-time workers. He said he thinks the work hours of second shift are more of a problem than the pay, but commissioners are willing to consider a variety of changes and "everything is on the table for discussion," he said.
According to its most recent inspection (October 2013) from the state's Department of Health, Pleasant Acres had no deficiencies or infractions.
Details about open positions can be found at https://yorkcountypa.gov/health-human-services/nursing-home/employment-opportunities.html.
The nursing home isn't the only county entity to suffer shortages. Last year, the county's 911 dispatchers turned out at a commissioners meeting to complain about an employee shortage that was causing schedule concerns and forcing long hours. The county has since increased pay slightly for those workers in an effort to attract more applicants.
For a full list of open positions in York County government, visit http://yorkcountypa.gov/county-administration/human-resources.html.
Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.