He also said the often unpleasant nature of many jobs was another factor.
“Not many people want to be outside in 30 degree weather digging a trench to fix a broken water main,” Elrod said. “Not many people want to be in the back of a garbage truck early in the morning or in the rain.”
Wentz added another factor behind the hiring difficulties: COVID-19.
“In the sanitation division in particular, I would say it’s because of the fear of getting COVID,” Wentz said. “You take care of everyone’s waste in the city. You don’t know who has it and who doesn’t.
It’s not just the direct threat of getting sick that puts pressure on city staff. Wentz said many people in his department have young children, and disruptions at schools have sometimes kept those employees from working.
Elrod said recruiting has proven to be more of a challenge for the city than retention. He attributes this, at least in part, to the higher salaries offered by other employers.
“If we have a position that we think is worth, say, $14 an hour, if we can’t increase that hiring rate, that’s not attractive to someone looking for jobs that can make $16, $17, $18 an hour.” Elrod says. “And if they don’t read the job description, or look at the benefits or even come to us for an interview and leave their talk about how different we are, so that’s really what they’re looking for.”