Papa John's in Kailua is looking for pizza delivery drivers.

Isle employers must
compete for top workers

The labor shortage
affects all industries

Hawaii's low unemployment rate does not play favorites.

All industries are affected fairly evenly, and employers are having a hard time filling positions, according to Colleen LaClair, deputy director of the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

"Everybody's being impacted," LaClair said, "retail, hotel, restaurant, the construction industry, health care -- so it's pretty much across the board with this kind of unemployment rate."

Hawaii's hottest jobs, according to state Labor Department figures on positions available each year, are restaurant servers, retail sales workers, cashiers, teachers, fast-food preparers and servers, security guards, janitors, office clerks, housekeepers and registered nurses.

At Y. Hata & Co. Ltd., a wholesale distribution company for the food service industry, the challenges are finding qualified drivers with commercial driver's licenses -- and getting people to work in the warehouse overnight, according to Human Resources Director Terry Johnson. Johnson estimates he spends "a gigabuck" on recruitment advertising. The company competes vigorously with other employers of commercially licensed drivers and pays an extra 75 cents an hour for nighttime warehouse work.

Drivers often want better wages, "but they're also looking for where they can earn the most with the least effort," he said.

Y. Hata's deliveries can involve heavy cases, whereas for bus drivers, "your cargo unloads itself when you get to a destination."

Y. Hata is taking a lesson from Roberts Hawaii, which Johnson says is well regarded for shepherding driver trainees through the commercial driver-licensing process and retaining them through a one-year contract.

Y. Hata wants "to grow our own, since nobody is growing them for us," Johnson said. The company also has leased two new trucks that do not require a commercial driver's license, or CDL.

Entry-level drivers can be hired for shorter shifts and easier routes and learn the customer service side of the business. Then, "we'll sponsor them to get their CDL," he said.


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