Last year, over 700 Residential and Hospitality Services, or RHS, employees were furloughed. Now, thousands of employment opportunities wait for students at Michigan State University for the fall and spring semesters.
"We rely heavily on student employment in order to serve Spartans,” Chief Communications Officer of MSU's Residential and Hospitality Services Kat Cooper said.
Residential and Hospitality Services, or RHS, jobs include positions for housing, dining, hospitality areas like the Kellogg Center, golf courses, tennis courts, the Spartan Stadium, the MSU Union and the Breslin Center.
“We touch so many things across campus, it’s really essential that we’re able to fill student jobs and full-time and part-time jobs from the community,” Cooper said.
“There are literally thousands of jobs on campus that need to be filled by students,” Career Services Director of Employer Relations and Communications Karin Hanson said.
Associate Professor in the School of Human Resources & Labor Relations John Beck and Professor of Management in the MSU Broad College of Business Frederick Morgeson said having difficulty filling these positions can be because of a combination of reasons.
One of the major arguments regarding the trend in the labor market is that unemployment insurance is too high, Beck said. He said that people can make more by not working than while working.
“Many people would argue that it’s not about high unemployment insurance, it’s about low wages," Beck said.
In response, companies are increasing wages “fairly dramatically” to get workers, Beck said. Meijer, Amazon and Dominos are some of the companies that have open positions for $15 per hour in Ingham County.
Morgeson said the high wages of bigger companies will make it harder for small businesses to find employees because they may not be able to pay the same rates as competitors.
“You can go work at Target stocking shelves for $15 an hour or you can go to some other job that might even be harder and make $12 an hour,” Morgeson said.
Beck said this is a “chicken and egg problem” because “higher wages are going to cause inflation, and you need higher wages to pay the inflationary prices that are now being charged."
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the price of all items rose 5.4% from May 2020 to May 2021, the largest 12-month increase since June 1992.
“A rising economy is going to have a tendency to demand more workers and more consumers,” Beck said. “Unemployed people very well may be in a situation where, even if they don’t necessarily want to go back to work, higher gasoline prices, higher rents, all of those things are going to force people back into the labor markets."
Beck and Morgeson said another possibility is that people have become used to remote work.
“There’s a whole group of people that probably aren’t all that fired up to be in close proximity with other people,” Beck said.“Either they got used to a Zoom environment or to a remote work...A lot of folks suddenly understood for the first time that they could work from home. It forced them to rethink what they were doing at all.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in Michigan increased from 4.9% to 5.0% from April to May.
According to the Bureau, this small change continued across the nation in June. As of June 30, the national unemployment rate is 5.8%and the number of unemployed persons is 9.5 million.
In addition to becoming comfortable with remote work, Morgeson said people may still be reluctant to work due to COVID-19.
“The health concerns are very real, especially if they have any kind of preexisting conditions,” Beck said. “They don’t like the idea of opening themselves up to that."
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Morgeson said another reason for low employment rates may be due to the disruption of people leaving jobs during the pandemic.
“People change jobs, they get frustrated with jobs, they look for new jobs and during the pandemic that whole process seems to have been disrupted, so people stayed in jobs that they might otherwise have left,” Morgeson said. “The impediments of finding a new job during the pandemic have been lessened."
A reduction in unemployment benefits coupled with better wages and working conditions are the conditions that Morgeson said he thinks will increase employment rates.
MSU Career Services is hosting a virtual fair for local jobs and internships from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Aug. 19.
“Being as flexible as possible, creating as positive a work environment as possible are things that we know really matter to people,” Morgeson said.
Cooper said that working on campus is a great way to make friends, practice time management and make money.
Cooper also said that jobs in the hospitality area at MSU will help build customer service and people skills.
“Those are the kinds of skills that on your resume may not get you your first job, but having those kinds of skills will help you get your second job and help you move up in your career because you’ll be better at talking to people and working together with a diverse group of people towards a common goal,” Cooper said.
Hanson said that she wants students to know that on-campus jobs are flexible with class schedules, easy to get to, offer great compensation and attempt to partner students with jobs that complement their major to further enhance their skills.
Michigan State University’s Career Services Network sends out weekly emails sponsored by Handshake to highlight opportunities on campus.
“Not only does (campus jobs) help us, but it helps the students as well,” Hanson said. “We understand that the students are students first."
This article is part of our 2021 Summer Mail Home Issue. View the full digital issue here.
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