Jobs all around, but no takers

Cherry Castellvi and one of her restaurants, the Kabayan Bistro Lounge and Banquet on Roosevelt Avenue.

By Cristina DC Pastor

The country is experiencing a historic shortage of labor across the board. 

Filipino Americans who work in schools and the restaurant industry are seeing a workforce crisis, seemingly another downside to the never-ending pandemic.

When businesses closed at the height of the coronavirus outbreak, many workers lost their jobs as businesses shut down. When the businesses reopened, many of these same workers did not return. What the pandemic has done, according to analysts, was force some kind of a reckoning on workers stuck in low-end jobs. Staying home during the lockdown prompted scores to take stock of their lives, their future, and their options.  This was especially true of restaurant and retail workers. With the time on their hands, they started looking for other jobs and retrained for new skills. Others opened their own businesses. 

“It’s our biggest challenge,” said restaurant owner Cherry Castellvi of New York.

Castellvi, a former physical therapist, owns five restaurants across New York State — including the flagship Kabayan Grill on Queens Boulevard, Kabayan at Union Turnpike, and the more upscale Kabayan Bistro Lounge and Banquet on Roosevelt Avenue. Her chain of Filipino restaurants, which includes a food truck and a catering service, has a staff of 70 people. They are looking for eight to 10 more people to fill vacancies.

“We need people across the board — servers, cooks, dishwashers,” she told The FilAm.

Cherry said her business lost people during the pandemic. “Some of them didn’t want to go back to the restaurant industry anymore,” she said.

The restaurant industry has remained a minimum-wage industry. In New York City, the minimum wage is $15 per hour, although not all restaurants pay their workers that amount. Cherry said they are offering a daily wage beyond the minimum to “attract workers” but still find it a challenge to find people with experience.

 “We have been taking inexperienced people and training them already,” she added.

According to Cherry, some restaurant workers are finding new employment in healthcare where they believe jobs are more secure because of the long-drawn pandemic.

School Business Administrator Bima Baje.

Also wanted: Teachers

Bima Baje, who works as a School Business Administrator in New Jersey, said there is a teacher shortage in K-12 schools as well.  Stress, low pay, and no room for advancement are the reasons reported why Kindergarten to 12th grade schools are experiencing unprecedented vacancies.

“I work for K-12 schools since 2012 and the shortage is nationwide,” she told The FilAm. “It got worse during the pandemic, with others opting to stay at home because they’re receiving unemployment benefits anyway.”

Teachers in Math, English Language Arts and Science are especially in demand. “We are offering attractive salaries but we’re still short,” she said.

Her schools have hired inexperienced teachers supported by interns from colleges “we have collaboration with.” They have remedied the situation by merging classes, she said. “It is affecting the academic performance of students.”

It used to be that word-of-mouth would bring in a stream of applicants, especially for small businesses. Not a lot of people are sending resumes and calling to be interviewed. The pandemic has made some people look toward work-life balance where they get to spend more quality time with family or make time to pursue other interests. Going back to the ‘same old, same old’ is being turned down by some people who simply wanted something better.

© The FilAm 2021

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