Employee Shortage Crippling Local Businesses

Staff Shortage - Raised Hand with Stop Sign on the Painted Palm - Isolated on White Background.

Wants Ads Saturating the Region


Trevor Phipps

These days, the effects of the state and nationwide employee shortage have hit home with a raging vengeance, with company operators pleading for a commodity often lacking in the High Country: patience.

Locally, just about every business in town sports signs saying that they are needing help. And, the local media  has featured an unusual amount of help wanted ads filling their classified page; some offering tantalizing salaries for certain positions.

This trend has created service problems at virtually every type of  business.

In Teller County, the situation has gotten to the point where pretty much every business is shorthanded and is operating with a lower number of employees from the pre-COVID era. In fact, the situation has become so dire that some local eateries have shut their doors, and other restaurants have cut how many days they are open.


A couple of weeks ago the Hungry Bear restaurant, a mainstay in the community, announced that they would be temporarily closing due to a shortage of staff. The Historic Ute Inn had to announce on social media that they were shutting their doors on a Saturday because they were so shorthanded.


Last week, the Ute announced that it would only be open four days a week, and they would be closed Monday thru Wednesday instead of just Mondays and Tuesdays. Other restaurants like Carmen a Tapas have also been operating only four days a week.


According to Mark Rabaut, the owner of the Woodland Country Lodge and Microtel, their lodging establishments are looking for all positions and is operating a level way below employee saturation. He said that he currently has 25 employees but he needs 40 workers to really meet customer demand.


Even though the hospitality industry seems to be the worst hit, other businesses are also struggling to find help. Nowadays pretty much every type of business is advertising that they need more workers.


The good news is for those looking for a job or wanting to change careers, there are opportunities everywhere. There are several opportunities locally even for those that do not wish to work in the service industry.

A Good Time For On-The-Job Employment Training

For one, all of the local municipalities have been advertising several open positions including heavy equipment operators. Places like the Aspen Mine Center are also offering more specialized positions.


Advance Auto Parts in Woodland Park is another business that needs more help and they are currently hiring for both customer service representatives and parts drivers. “We will give you on the job training so you can help your friends and neighbors to find the parts they need to fix their cars,” their help wanted ad says. “We also provide parts and equipment for heavy duty applications as well as some machine shop work where you can learn to machine brakes and make hydraulic hose.”


Durham School Services that provide all of the transportation needs for both the Woodland Park and Cripple Creek school districts are in a dire need of bus drivers. Now that they are operating in Cripple Creek as well, the need for workers has reached the point where they are having a job fair on August 10 where anyone can walk in and get an interview on the spot.


According to Jim Kingston with Durham School Services in Woodland Park the struggle to find bus drivers for the new school year has been harder than ever. “We need to get some applicants in here,” Kingston said. “Last week was wonderful we got applications, but this week it has been quiet, dead. A lot of it has to do with people aren’t going back to work. And everybody is hiring too so we are in competition with our pay rates, which start at $16 hour and can go up to $18 an hour for those with experience.”


The company provides full training at no charge to the employee. They contract with a third party training company that gets all applicants their commercial driving license.


Kingston also said that many people see driving a bus as a rewarding career. “They like driving and they like being with the kids,” Kingston said. “They like the community involvement. They feel part of the community. Some of these drivers have driven a child from kindergarten all the way to graduation in high school. So, they get to know people and their families.”


Kingston went on to say that bus drivers enjoy having a split schedule so they have free time in the day to start a business or take care of younger children. They also offer a ride-along program so people that have kids that are too young to be in school can bring their children on their bus routes with them.


According to business and community leaders In this day and age, there is simply no excuse to be unemployed. And, those who wish they had a better job can also look around and find a position that better fits their lifestyle, since literally everyone is hiring.

One of the main deterrents for people looking for work has been the continual unemployment benefits offered by the government as a byproduct of the coronavirus epidemic. But those will soon be ending.