Big hirings in Big Rapids

The pandemic continues to impact employment

Businesses all over Big Rapids are desperate for employees and applications. Photo by: Angie Rosenthal | Torch Photographer

Despite the end of winter break and the beginning of the spring semester, many places are still looking to fill job vacancies.

Many businesses within Big Rapids have been hiring since the beginning of the school year. Positions are being advertised with increasing wages as time goes on. Despite the lowering unemployment rate of Mecosta County, these positions are still appearing vacant. 

Currently there are 76 postings available on the [Ferris] Student Employment website,” said Melanie Mulder, the assistant director of Financial Aid for Ferris State University. “Twenty-three of those postings are for ‘work study’ only, so only students awarded work-study funding are able to view these postings. A few of the postings are seeking multiple student employees to fill positions, like Dining and Custodial.” 

Searching for jobs online, many positions are available. Aldi, Advanced Auto Parts, Wendy’s, Applebee’s, and other businesses all have positions posted online. McDonald’s has its front windows painted to advertise its starting hiring rate.  

However, as of Nov. 2021, Mecosta County had an unemployment rate of 4.8% according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This was 1.1% lower than the state of Michigan as a whole, which had an unemployment rate of 5.9% At the beginning of 2021, the rate for Mecosta County was 8%.  

Even with the decline in unemployment, many positions are still listed on employment websites and on business signs. Businesses are looking for employees but may not necessarily be hiring people who apply. According to Mulder, one of the most common reasons an individual may not receive the position they applied for is scheduling. Hiring departments at Ferris cannot schedule students to work during their scheduled classes. 

“Some departments offer a wide range of available hours and schedules because they provide services overnight and for extended hours each day, including weekends,” Mulder explained. “Other offices are open from 8 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday, which is generally when students take the majority of their classes.” 

Off-campus businesses that say they are hiring are also turning individuals away. Applebee’s has multiple job postings listed on their website, including server, host, and dishwasher. However, an employee who helps with hiring, who only gave the name Adam, said that the location was only hiring for two positions, and individuals applying for a server position were being turned away. 

Mulder gave some reasons as to why some students may not be interested in or looking for work. The main reason is the COVID-19 pandemic. With cases on the rise and new variations of the virus emerging every few months, many students are nervous to work in an environment where they are around different people.  

According to the New York Times COVID-19 tracker, Jan. 19 had 293 new cases reported in Mecosta County. The tracker also suggests that cases are being underreported since the test positivity rate for the county is 30%. 

Ferris currently has 1,401 student employees. This is an increase since the fall of 2020, which was 1,229 student employees. Even with the increase in employment, there are still many positions that need to be filled.