WORTHINGTON — Two Worthington employers recently shared their experiences struggling to hire enough employees, noting several factors that have contributed to the labor shortage.

One major problem is not having skilled workers from which to choose. Troy Wietzema, co-owner of W-2's Quality Meats, said he's noticed this in his line of work.

"It's a profession that there are no schools for," he said.

Butchering and processing meat are not simple tasks. They require specialized training and lots of practice.

Stacey Luong, director of nursing at South Shore Care Center, agreed. The majority of South Shore staff are certified nursing assistants (CNAs) or licensed practical nurses (LPNs). Both job titles require some formal training, but not as much as a registered nurse has to have.

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"Long-term care has had a shortage for many years," she said, noting that many people who pursue a career in nursing don't consider that specific field.

A local obstacle is that South Shore employees must be able to read and write English at a sixth-grade level, and that's not always the case in immigrant communities. However, Luong said, Sandra Demuth at Career Force runs a bridge program that helps people boost their English literacy so they can apply for more jobs. This program has been a huge help, Luong said.

At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, South Shore had a significant drop in job applications, Luong noted, explaining that some potential employees were afraid to work in health care because they saw it as a higher risk for getting COVID. Since then, however, that fear has dissipated somewhat.

"We are probably the safest place to work with COVID," Luong said, citing numerous precautions and screening measures that South Shore undertakes to keep employees safe.

According to statistics from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), nursing will continue to need more and more employees over the next decade. DEED projects that between 2020 and 2030, southwest Minnesota's highest-demand job will be home health and personal care aides, followed by registered nurses at number two.

Butchers and meat cutters fall much further down the list, with a projected slight drop in demand over the next 10 years. However, Wietzema's experience is telling that on a smaller scale, local businesses need people who know how to do the job.

While W-2's does require some skill, Wietzema said he would be willing to provide on-the-job training. His biggest struggle in hiring, he said, has been finding trustworthy and reliable employees. W-2's recently closed its Luverne branch due to short staffing.