Park City businesses still struggling to fill employment gaps
Few this year are denying it. Hiring has been a struggle.
One could look at Deer Valley Resort’s employment page, which has 85 open positions, said Lisa Angotti, recruiting manager for the resort. Or, said Maria Vorkink, hostess and manager at Red Rock Brewery, just drive around.
“All you see are signs asking people to work,” she said. “It tells you right there.”
Struggling to fill positions is no new grumble heard in Park City. The problem this year is that it appears to be worse than in recent memory.
Angotti said that the resort is combating the issue by being flexible. Whereas in the past, employees could only choose between full-time and part-time positions of three four days a week, this year, some locals are picking up just one weekly shift.
But even with the extra help, Angotti said that it is all hands on deck at the resort.
“I was working at the Children’s Center. We are all going to bus tables when it’s busy and leave our desks,” she said. “We just do what we can and we do the best we can so we don’t skimp on our guest service.”
She said that the holidays were exceptionally difficult and that a lot of people were working overtime, which she said can benefit those looking to pick up extra hours and cash.
Vorkink said that overtime work is often the norm at Red Rock during the busy season. But she does not agree that it is that beneficial. For her, it seems like staying longer is never worth it because the paycheck remains about the same.
Paychecks at the brewery have increased in general, though. Christopher Lutz, general manager, said that in order to keep employees, he has had to raise rates to remain competitive.
“All my cooks are coming with a phone saying, ‘Look, The Montage is hiring at $18 an hour,’” he said. “Now it’s like I have to give people $2 raises on the spot just to keep them working that shift.”
Lutz said that hiring was not any more difficult for the brewery this season than it has been in recent ones. The wages, however, have become hyper-competitive.
Yet even some of the high-paying seasonal positions have not been getting filled. That is what worries Robin Cohen, marketing director at Snowed Inn Sleigh Company.
She said that, while searching for ways to advertise employment, she saw that several restaurants around town are hiring, and those jobs are still open.
Cohen said that the restaurant was hoping to start a new lunch menu in December and serve food during the day, but she was not able to find chefs to fill all of the necessary positions until recently.
“It’s a nightmare,” she said last month while searching. “We just can’t get staffed up.”
She said at the time that the waiters and waitresses were all staffed, but the kitchen crew was not. To compensate. she brought two chefs from the restaurant she worked at in Alta while it is being renovated. The two chefs did not have one day off from Dec. 14 until after the New Year. After finding employees, Snowed Inn is starting its lunch menu next week.
She, and everyone else, knows one of the main problems with hiring in Park City — lack of affordable housing.
“Who can afford to live in Park City?” she said.
Vorkink, who has worked at Red Rock Brewery for 16 years, said that she lives in Heber City and drives to work. But then the problem becomes driving on icy roads with vehicles that are not equipped for the snow.
“We don’t have good cars because we don’t have the money for them,” she said.
But Cohen said that even in Alta in Little Cottonwood Canyon, there were some issues getting fully staffed this year. She points to the low unemployment rates in the state and country. Utah has an unemployment rate of 3.3 percent, according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
Nearly everyone who wants a job has a job, Angotti said.
Although there have been fewer Deer Valley employees who are retirees, interns, college students and high school students, the international student pool did not see any drop, she said. But the resort limits the amount of students on a J-1 visa that it can hire to 10 percent. The J-1 visa program allows international students to work in the U.S. for a limited amount of time. Now that the busy season has calmed down, Angotti said that the recruitment team is back to looking for employees locally to work any hours they can. She said it is not too late to work this winter, but they are not desperate yet.
“We’re doing OK, just about as good as anybody in the area,” she said.
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The Park City Chamber/Bureau on Tuesday honored Bob Wheaton, the longtime leader of Deer Valley Resort, with its annual Myles Rademan Spirit of Hospitality Award. Wheaton joins a long list of prominent Park City figures who have won the award.