BOZEMAN, Mont. – All across Bozeman you can see “We’re hiring” signs at several retail stores and fast food restaurants.
This is something the Bozeman Chamber of Commerce has seen coming: plenty of work but not enough workers.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is that between the success that is being had by Yellowstone Club and Lone Mountain Land Development company, who are great partners of the Bozeman Area Chamber of Commerce, is they hire four-to-six hundred employees that go every day from the Bozeman market up to jobs that are paying very good in the construction industry for the Big Sky area,” said Daryl Schliem, President and CEO of the Bozeman Chamber of Commerce.
When you take those workers out of Bozeman, it’s difficult to fill hundreds of positions in town, especially in retail and fast food. Even offering higher hourly pay isn’t helping the issue.
“How do we attract more talent that’s coming here? I know a lot of people are going to say, well, they aren’t the skilled jobs,” Schliem said. “But when you start looking at 16 to 18 dollars an hour, you’re talking about a pretty fair wage for the level of talent and training that you have to have.”
That higher pay is hurting small businesses in town.
“People look at it and they say, ‘Well, I can go work at a fast food restaurant for 12 dollars an hour and get to have a lot of customer interaction,” said Career Concepts Owner Terri Barber. “It’s kind of fun, or they could do this other job, labor intensive, for maybe a few dollars more, one or two or three dollars more and they’re looking at it like, ‘Why would I want to do that? It’s much more difficult work’.”
Having college students in Bozeman used to prevent this from happening. The Chamber of Commerce has noticed not as many college kids are working at fast food and retail establishments as in the past.
Even in the past ten years, many college students have shifted to focusing on their studies rather than juggling a part-time job.
This shortage in the workforce is something the Board of Directors plans to focus on in 2019.
Reporting by Emma Hamilton for MTN News