Talk about a perfect time to graduate.
Christina Close graduated from Brookdale Community College in Middletown in December to become a registered nurse and began applying to local hospitals, ready to enter an industry desperate to fill vacancies.
“I just applied and got an interview that day,” said Close, a 33-year-old Hazlet resident. “I guess it’s pretty quick.”
New Jersey workers are expected to continue to be in high demand in 2022, which will put more pressure on employers to offer higher wages, a collegial workplace and, perhaps most importantly, working conditions. sure.
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It’s a trend that has long been on the radar as the giant generation of baby boomers began to reach retirement age. But that was on full display during the pandemic as more and more workers started quitting their jobs, convinced they could find something better.
“You’ve heard of the ‘big quit,'” said Gene Waddy, owner of Diversant LLC, a Middletown-based staffing agency. “That’s actually a misnomer. It’s not really, really a resignation and I’ll never work again.
“They’re not leaving the job market, they’re just changing. But I think the demand isn’t going to go away. It’s going to be a worker economy for a few years to come in my mind,” he said.
The shift puts workers like Close and her fellow Brookdale nursing graduates in the driver’s seat as they search for jobs in a profession that is trying to fill a wave of positions left by retiring or burnt-out nurses.
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Gabriel Basalatan, 24, from Freehold, wanted to become a nurse and follow in his mother’s footsteps with the aim of providing intensive care.
He graduated in December and had already scheduled an interview with CentraState Medical Center in Freehold Township and had an advance on another interview at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune.
“For the most part, it seems like they always needed nurses,” Basalatan said. “Wherever you’re going, who’s going to take care of the patient?” There will always have to be a nurse. It’s only now that everyone realizes this.
20,000 new jobs per month
New Jersey seemed to be building economic momentum heading into 2022, at least until the omicron variant swept the state, slamming on the brakes again.
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The state, which lost jobs twice as fast as the country in March and April 2020, saw its unemployment rate fall from 16.6% to 6.6% in November. And its economy was creating more than 20,000 jobs a month.
Behind the numbers, however, the job market is changing.
Not only are baby boomers retiring with little incentive to return, but workers are also leaving for a number of reasons: to get better paid, to start their own businesses, to care for their children, said experts.
One measure: A study by the Council for a Strong America, a business advocacy group, found that 19% of mothers of toddlers and infants in New Jersey left the workforce during the pandemic due to lack of child care services.
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Labor shortages are squeezing businesses that cannot operate remotely: hospitals, trucking companies, warehouses, contractors, restaurants, hotels, grocery stores and gas stations.
And employers are trying to spread the word about the opportunities through job search ads, referral programs, sidewalk sandwich boards and partnerships.
“I would say we’re getting even more interest in corporate involvement than we have in the past, trying to get more involved,” said Gary MacDonald, curriculum director at Ocean County Vocational Technical School. “They want the next generation to be able to grab the knowledge of people leaving the industry.”
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“Everyone is looking for someone”
White-collar employers are also feeling the effects.
Mancini Duffy, a New York-based architectural firm, recently opened an office in Red Bank to be closer to ongoing New Jersey development, from restaurants to warehouses.
The company has 70 employees and wants to add 30 more by the end of the year, including project architects and senior designers, but finding them hasn’t been easy, said Scott Harrell, director and associate.
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Harrell relied on word of mouth, offering employees a bonus for referrals. And he underscores to recruits the company’s commitment to work-life balance, not always a common feature of the architecture industry.
“These days, everybody’s looking for someone,” Harrell said. “It’s a battle that’s constantly going on.”
Will the labor pool increase this year? Observers aren’t willing to bet as long as the coronavirus and its variants threaten to sweep the state.
For now, workers realize they have the upper hand. At the end of November, only 13% of workers said they were very concerned about the labor market, compared to 43% who felt so in November 2020, according to a survey by Rutgers University’s Heldrich Center for Workforce Development.
Workers aren’t afraid of being fired or quitting because they’re confident they can find something else, said center director Carl Van Horn.
“The vast majority of Americans think now is a good time to get a job,” Van Horn said.
Christina Close can attest to that.
She quit her marketing career after deciding the industry and traveling to New York City weren’t for her. And she turned her attention to nursing, thinking that would be better.
Close worked as a practical nurse at both CentraState and Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank while she attended Brookdale.
The experience gave him the chance to see health workers in action during a pandemic, reinforcing his desire to step into the field. And it gave her a chance to understand what she was looking for in an employer.
At the top of the list: a manageable nurse-patient ratio.
Close seems to be in high demand. She has previously arranged interviews at Riverview, Jersey Shore and Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch.
“I’m just going to keep my options open and see where I want to go,” she said.
Michael L. Diamond is a business journalist who has written about New Jersey’s economy and the health care industry for more than 20 years. He can be contacted at email@example.com.