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Hiring may become harder

Cliff Thompson
Shane Macomber/Vail DailyRelocated from Lakewood, Derek Eggert and Arron Wersinger review positions at Vail Resorts where they hope to soon become new employees.
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EAGLE COUNTY – As employers cast a wary eye toward filling positions in the coming year, they’re both encouraged and cautious about what they’re seeing.While far more employees are available than 10 years ago, when many positions stayed empty, there are signs some jobs are tougher than they have been, and that the employee supply may tighten.Service-related jobs have been harder to fill because of increased competition for employees and the booming construction industry.”It’s not a crisis,” said John Power, human resources director for the town of Vail. “But it will raise its head in selected areas. We’re just beginning to see the beginning of it.”That’s what Tricia Theelke at the Eagle County schools is seeing. The schools employ 720 full- and part-time employees.”We’ve had less applications for our classified positions – cooks and custodians – than in previous years,” she said. That contrasts with applications for the 420 teaching positions at the school. She is seeing more applications from teachers this year than during the last three, Theelke said.At the Vail Valley Medical Center, which has 750 full- and part-time employees, David Blackwell said the hospital is having an easier time than in previous years – but again it depends on the position.

“Health care professionals – RNs, imaging technologists and pharmacists – are tougher to get,” he said.It’s largely a matter of supply, Blackwell said.”The bottleneck is schools having the capacity and instructors and clinical sites to take on more students,” he said.Part of the reason the employee picture is as good as these employers say it is, may lie in the fact employers are getting smarter and better at hiring. When employees were difficult to find here, Power said, many employers looked abroad to fill positions.Quality and wagesAt the Vail Valley Medical Center, Blackwell said, turnover has been lower than in past years because the hospital has focused on hiring quality employees.”That has important repercussions to employee culture,” he said. “Employees stay longer because they know you value quality.”Turnover is down in Avon as well, said Jacquie Halburnt, assistant town manager.

“Overall, we never have a hard time filling full-time positions,” Halburnt said. Avon employs up to 200 full- and part-time workers. “We offer a competitive salary and benefits,” she said. “After 9/11 people were looking for more stability.”Halburnt, too, is finding that hiring part-time employees is tough, although she’s not sure why.But getting employees is just part of the puzzle, said contractor Richard “Chupa” Nelson of RA Nelson Associates. “You can always find employees,” he said. “It depends on the quality of employee and how much you pay.”The market is better now than it was during the mid-1990s when employers scrambled just to find warm bodies to fill positions, Nelson said.Mountains draw



One of the trump cards employers here have, Nelson said, is the attraction of living in the Colorado mountains. That also has its drawbacks because it’s more expensive than living in other areas, but that’s not a deal-breaker, he said.”One of the things you always hear is the cost of living here,” he said. “But wages here are commensurate with that cost.”Nelson’s company has construction projects in several states and he said he’s having difficulty filling some positions and is finding that nationally the employee market is beginning to tighten.That is a trend that will make another appearance here, said Vail’s Power. “You’ve got 10 million baby boomers who will exit the workforce in the next five to 10 years,” he said. “Finding people with experience is going to be harder and harder to do,” Power added. “Down the road you see tremendous growth here that will snap up all of the technical trades and crafts. The market is clearly going to be more competitive.”Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or cthompson@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado


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