SOURCE Magazine Winter 2023 | Page 18

16 SOURCE | Winter 2023

Labor Shortages Drive Innovative Initiatives

Amy Bradford , GROWMARK Corporate Communications Manager abradford @ growmark . com
Jessica Ehler
Tom Swearingen
Labor shortages have been felt in many industries – transportation and logistics , manufacturing , and agriculture . And throughout the GROWMARK System , as local FS cooperatives and retail units struggle to fill key roles . Jessica Ehler , former GROWMARK manager of compliance and employee relations , and Tom Swearingen , former GROWMARK director of talent management , led a task force designed to identify ways to alleviate or resolve the labor challenges .
Ehler explained the types of open positions are like those in broader industries . “ CDL truck drivers , applicators , laborers , and skilled laborers are the most difficult to find ,” she said .
According to American Trucking Association ( ATA ), there has been a nationwide shortage of drivers since the late 1980s . The shortage reached a high of just over 81,000 in 2021 and fell to 78,000 in 2022 . ATA said the shortage is defined by “ the difference between the number of drivers currently in the market and the optimal number of drivers based on freight demand .”
The same holds true for other positions , according to Ehler . “ The shortage of labor in operational roles has gotten to the point it is impeding our ability to generate income . The work and sales are there , but we are having a difficult time delivering on the service in some instances .”
Other organizations have launched scholarship programs to pay for CDL training . Others have paid for schooling and training for operational roles in exchange for a multi-year commitment to work for the specific company .
GROWMARK continues to pursue several avenues , understanding that it may take different approaches to fully meet customer needs :
• Recruiting Activation Plan / Package – evaluating how to attract labor from sources not traditionally explored , and what it takes to retain operational talent once hired .
• Community College Pilot – increased partnerships with select educational