North Mississippi State Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Tupelo, saw the effects COVID-19 had on recruiting employees over the past 18 months.
As many companies experienced budget cuts and severe worker-layoffs, NMSH struggled to retain employees due to an increased need for work in the medical field all across the country.
Because of this need for employees, especially for nurses, MSDH Nurse Manager Lisa Downing said many hospitals and medical agencies are offering contracts to nurses to work for specific time frames at a particular location. These contracts offer large sums of money or signing bonuses causing nurses to leave their jobs or not take a regular nursing position.
“You have people leaving their long time jobs for the possibility of making a lot of money in a short amount of time,” Downing said. “It’s hard to retain people at a normal salary when you have people offering so much money elsewhere.”
MSDH, along with 36 other businesses, attended the Mississippi University for Women career fair Tuesday in hopes of recruiting new employees for open positions. Even though MUW has a nursing school producing several nurses a year, Downing said she still finds it challenging to find employees even at career fairs.
“Career fairs help sometimes find employees like techs, but finding nurses is a bit more difficult,” Downing said. “It’s such a specialized field, and it’s not like nurses are having to search for jobs right now.”
Aside from in-person recruitment, Downing said she uses the Mississippi Board of Nursing Magazine, Indeed, the Mississippi State Personnel Board website and nursing Facebook pages as other hiring methods.
Magnolia Business Systems, an office equipment supply company in Columbus, attended the career fair hoping to find employees for sales, service and office positions. Owner Ron Rivers said several students in attendance seemed interested in his company.
“While it hasn’t been as good as I had expected, I have three or four people I would talk to again and follow up with an interview,” Rivers said.
Rivers said he has also grappled with recruiting and retaining employees since COVID-19. When unemployment payments were several hundred dollars a week at the start of the pandemic, Rivers said he saw multiple individuals not working to draw in these large amounts of money. He said he believes this practice caused employees not to want to return back to work even after the COVID-19 unemployment benefits ended.
Even though Rivers posts job listings weekly online and utilizes Workforce Investment Network Job Centers, responses are often hard to come by.
“We do postings on their webpage, but many times people never follow up for interviews after they apply,” Rivers said.
While many businesses see hiring as a challenge, many positive students attended Tuesday’s fair looking for a potential job. MUW Career Services Coordinator Towanda Williams, who spearheaded the event, said the career fair is a way for students to see what jobs are available locally and had seen several students leave their resumes and schedule interviews with businesses.
“When we plan programs, it’s for our students, but it’s also to connect and network with the community businesses,” Williams said. “Get our students familiarized with the opportunities that are available right here so that they don’t always have to leave home to find employment.”
Nearing the end of her college experience at MUW, senior Alexis Turner said Tuesday gave her insight on what jobs were available to her in her field and now knows there are many paths she can take going forward into the workforce.
“My major is mathematics, and a lot of times you just think you’re going to become a teacher with mathematics, but I’m learning there is so much more out there that I can do with my degree,” Turner said.
Williams said she is optimistic for students at MUW, knowing many local businesses will need employees soon after they graduate. Simply applying for jobs, polishing resumes and reaching out of comfort zones strengthens any candidate for a job, she said.
“I think it’s important for the university to have a strong presence in the community,” Williams said. “If we can do more recruiting and more connecting, I think it’ll make us a stronger city, and I think it will definitely make us a stronger university.”