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Economic Development

Posted on: August 7, 2018

New job sharing program promises help for local seasonal workers, employers

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Seasonal workers having difficulty finding year-round jobs will soon have new tools to locate employment, housing, benefits and more through a program that is said will benefit both workers and local employers.

The Grand County Economic Development Department is creating a website to house resources related to finding work in the area, such as job listings and housing resources. As part of that project, the department is working with local businesses to create a job sharing program that would allow employees to pick up shifts across businesses in the off-season or anytime they need additional hours.

"(Local businesses') biggest pain is how do we attract employees, especially for frontline jobs and some seasonal workforce, and how do we retain them," explained DiAnn Butler, executive director of the Grand County Economic Development Department.

Local businesses involved in the program include anchor employers like Winter Park Resort and YMCA of the Rockies, but Butler said smaller businesses across the county are encouraged to join.

Butler said she hopes the website and job sharing program will be up and running by the end of the year.

The idea for the program and website began a few years ago when the economic development department received federal grant money to hire a consultant focused on economic resurgency, who noticed that employers and employees in the area shared a need for a one-stop shop for job related resources.

It's about opening up opportunities for more conversation, Butler said, as many local employers share the same challenges.

"By bringing them together in the same room on a regular basis, we're chipping away at some of the things we can work on together," she added.

One such employer is Winter Park Resort, which largely utilizes seasonal workers.

Steve Hurlbert, director of communications and public relations for Winter Park Resort, said he has frequently heard from employees looking for more hours. He believes the job sharing program meets a need in the community.

When there's less activity around the area it can become a burden on employees. Trying to retain workers is difficult when there aren't enough hours to work, Hurlbert said. "We want our employees to be able to come here, stay here and live here, and just basically enjoy what this area has to offer."

The job sharing program will benefit both employees and employers, Hurlbert acknowledged.

"It allows good employees to continue to make money and accumulate hours," he explained. "That's the goal for any business: you want to be able to hang on to these really good employees.

"We get a ton of really good employees and you want to be able to provide as much support for them as possible and this is another way to do that."

Katie Donner, a seasonal trail groomer and snowmaker for Winter Park Resort and a river rafting guide in the summer, told Sky-Hi in May that, while the off-season is a chance to recharge, there are challenges to not working.

"You do have a month off where you are not earning money, but I would say the biggest thing is not having benefits and health insurance," Donner said.

In preparation for the off-season, Donner saves money throughout the year and stocks up on groceries. Despite the challenges, she said she still loves her seasonal jobs.

Butler said that keeping workers engaged in the community is a main goal of the program. She hopes that it will be successful enough to expand and eventually offer other tools like shared training.

"We really hope it creates a sense of community county wide so that employees can feel like they're being nurtured and that we really do care about keeping them in Grand County and helping them find career paths," Butler said. "And attracting new employees, which really helps all our citizens. We have businesses that close some days because of a lack of workforce, so it's really an issue everyone should see a benefit from."

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