UHDS locations experience ongoing worker shortages

Students wait in line to order at Trader Bings Cafe in Austin Hall on the morning of May 16. Worker shortages at on-campus dining halls and cafes have caused long lines and further difficulty for current staff members.

Emma Coke, News Contributor

Employment at Oregon State University’s Housing and Dining Services locations, for both students and professional staff members, is still not up to pre-pandemic levels. 

UHDS locations, which include coffee shops and dining halls, are being negatively impacted due to these staffing shortages. As the year has progressed, some UHDS locations have reopened, such as La Calle at McNary Dining Center, but staffing shortages are still an issue.

“Due to these staffing shortages we have reduced the number of locations open, and reduced our hours of operation when compared to pre-pandemic,” said Lisa Narrow, assistant director of dining for UHDS. “We had to close Calabaloo’s this term due to an employee shortage in McNary. Bing’s at Weatherford has not opened at all in the last two years.”

Unlike dining halls, the Memorial Union has not been hit as hard by staffing shortages thanks to student fees, according to Deb Mott, director of the Memorial Union.

“Regardless of what our staffing levels are, the Memorial Union will still provide the level of service that students pay through their incidental fees,” said Mott.

Narrow believes the isolation during the shutdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the way students choose to spend their time, making a job seem unappealing.

“Now students are more used to being alone and spending their time online, instead of out and about,’’ Narrow said. “The idea of spending 10-20 hours at a job seems to be overwhelming for some.”

In the past, Narrow stated that word of mouth was how they would usually get more students. However, with an already small team of student workers, relying on word of mouth to get more applicants doesn’t work so well. UHDS, instead, has had to find other ways to increase their student workforce.

Back in April, UHDS raised their hourly pay for student staff to $15.15 an hour, which is 16% higher than Oregon’s standard minimum wage of $12.75 an hour, to get more students to apply. 

“These higher wages are an investment back to student employees at a time when so many are reporting facing a multitude of financial stressors,” said Jennifer Viña, director of marketing and communications for UHDS.

UHDS has also attempted other ways of enticing students. In March, they tried to give away free coffees during interviews, however Narrow noted it didn’t seem to have an impact. 

Additionally, UHDS has expanded their advertising through the use of flyers and advertisements throughout campus to get the word out. 

“There’s a lot of flexibility and variety in the types of jobs available, so we’re working hard to advertise positions that fit into students’ schedules,” Narrow said.

They plan to continue promoting through the summer for incoming students who hope to apply to work in the fall.

“As students arrive for START orientation this summer, we will be promoting open job positions and encouraging them to apply before they arrive on campus for fall classes,” Viña said. “This way, they can interview throughout the summer and in some cases arrive earlier than the start of classes for hands-on training.”

During the summer, UHDS will still need a team of student workers. According to Narrow, 40-hour-a-week positions will be available for any student taking the term off. Open positions are available for catering, dining centers and all coffee shops and stores located on campus.