BJU hit by national labor shortage

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BJU hit by national labor shortage

As widespread labor shortages sweep the country, Bob Jones University has struggled to fill many positions and has made adjustments to accommodate reduced staffing.

Although some locations on campus, like Bellis Copy Center and University Cleaners, have remained mostly untouched by the labor shortage, others have felt the full impact of the crisis. In particular, the University’s facilities maintenance and Aramark’s dining services have struggled to fill open positions in the past year.

According to Brent Wustman, the director of campus dining services, 53 of Aramark’s 240 positions across campus are currently open. “[The city of] Greenville was already really short-staffed before this problem, but I would say we’re probably averaging about double the openings that we usually had before the pandemic,” Wustman said.

Because of staffing shortages, hours in some dining locations have had to be adjusted as staff is spread thin to compensate. In recent weeks, some of the food stations in the dining common have also been closed for the same reason, including the stir fry station.

Much of the problem, according to Roy Hulehan, director of campus retail, was a lack of applications. “It used to be, if I posted an ad for a position, I could fill [the position] within a week or two,” Hulehan said. “[If I] posted now, I’d be lucky to get any application in a week or two, let alone the best one for the job.”

Wustman said turnover rates have risen dramatically over the summer. “Some people are just leaving,” Wustman said. “[It’s] more and more common these days to work one shift, then disappear or work one week, then disappear. … We’ll hire two or three people, and things will be looking better, and then a week later, we’ll lose two or three people that have just stopped showing up.”

In addition to difficulty filling positions, Tom Berg, the director of facilities, said retirements due to an aging staff are a growing concern, especially in his department. 

“My average employee has been here over 18 years,” Berg said. “I’ve got … a lot of people that are nearing retirement age.” Berg said six of the 62 full-time positions in facilities are open right now.

Wustman and Berg both pointed to a decrease in students working on campus, both in number of employees and number of available hours, as being an increasing issue over the past several years. “We’ve never had student shortages for working in The Den [before], but this is the year we’ve struggled to get students to work in The Den in the six plus years I’ve been here,” Wustman said.

The number of student workers in custodial is down about 100 compared to previous years, according to Berg. “We’re not cleaning the campus quite to the level that we’d like, but we’ve been able to keep the main areas clean and ready for the public.”

Aramark has begun offering greater incentives, including $300 toward student workers’ school bills, in an effort to fill the openings. The company also provides workers with meal vouchers that can be used in The Den. Wustman said that even with these extra incentives, Aramark has had difficulty enticing students to work for them. 

Wustman stressed that students should be patient and understanding with the current staff. “We’re just asking that people understand that we don’t want to close stations and we don’t want to change our hours, but it’s out of necessity to maintain our staff so we don’t overburden them to the point where we lose more staff.”