Brunswick closes outside skating rink as a result of it could’t discover sufficient employees

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Figure skates slide on the ice. C. Thacher Carter / The Times Record

The ice rink at Coffin Pond in Braunschweig will not open this season due to a lack of staff in the park and leisure department.

The department is seeking four full-time caregivers, according to Tom Farrell, Brunswick’s director of parks and recreation. There are also two seasonal winter positions, only one of which is occupied.

A full-time staff in the department would consist of a total of 14 full-time positions, seven of which would be maintenance workers. Farrell, who has been with Brunswick Parks and Recreation for 40 years, said recruiting has been an unprecedented challenge for the department this year.

“Unfortunately, due to our current staffing situation, we had to re-prioritize when to clear the ice rinks and prepare the trails,” Farrell said in a statement last week. “Our top priority areas will clear approximately 16 miles of sidewalks around local school locations, as well as the recreation center’s parking lot and bike path, after each storm event.”

The department has gone to great lengths to publicize the vacancies, Farrell said, although few applications have been submitted. Examples of this are the application of the job via social media and news channels as well as the distribution of 1,400 job advertisements as part of a flyer in the Braunschweig schools. The salary range for the job is $ 16.89 to $ 19.50 an hour and includes paid time off, insurance options, and retirement plans.

According to the city, the ice rinks in Lishness Park and in the City Mall will open as planned, provided the weather and human resources permit. Brunswick also has over 7.2 miles of hiking trails in the trail systems of the Kate Furbish Preserve.

Braunschweig is not the only one feeling the effects of the labor shortage caused by COVID-19. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, there were around 10.7 million job vacancies nationwide in the third quarter of 2021. Around 7.1 million openings were reported in the same quarter of 2019.

According to Dr. Jason Harkins, Assistant Dean of Maine Business School and Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship, the current shortage is the result of a shock in the job market caused by COVID-19 and the lockdowns, business closings and large sums of people in the labor force Episode left both permanently and temporarily.

“The number of jobs available has shifted compared to the number of people able and willing to work them,” said Harkins.

Now that companies are looking for new employees, the employee-company relationship has evolved to better serve workers, Harkins said, so that potential employees can look for more rewarding, flexible, and better-paying job opportunities.

Access to childcare services that can accommodate inconsistent distance learning schedules has also been a barrier to re-entry into the world of work, according to Harkins, a challenge that particularly affects service-minded workers who cannot clock in remotely.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Maine’s labor force participation rate was 60.3% in November 2021. For comparison: in November 2020 the rate was 59.5% and in November 2019 it was 62.7%.

Bath’s parks and leisure department consists of 10 full-time positions and up to 20 seasonal positions at various times of the year. There are usually several seasonal workers on call during the winter, but only one this year.

“We were probably around 50% from summer through fall,” said Steve Baboni, director of Bath Parks, Recreation, Forestry and Cemeteries. “I have a full-time job as a city arborist that has been open for a while, and we’ve just filled an open position as a park and cemetery foreman.”

As for winter outdoor recreation, Baboni said the department grooms ski slopes at Bath Country Club and maintains an ice rink on Goddard’s Pond. Both will run as usual this year, although the warming hut in Goddard will not open due to a lack of staff.

According to the department’s director, Pam Leduc, Topsham’s parks and leisure department has not felt the effects of the labor shortage due to a low turnover rate among four employees. Topsham operates two ice rinks, toboggan runs and cross-country skiing trails.

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