SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – First responders and public safety professionals have been working day in and day out since the pandemic began 19 months ago. Now, these essential agencies are struggling to hire people.
“We are having a tough time recruiting,” said Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi. He told 22News his department is being impacted by the labor crisis, just like many other industries and businesses right now. He said they are working to attract new hires in different ways.
“We try to do it with a very respectful pay scale; the benefits of being a state employee; the insurance; the vacation incentives, and also the career opportunity,” said Cocchi.
Northeast Regional Director Patrick Pickering of American Medical Response told 22News that they were already experiencing staffing shortages before the pandemic and COVID-19 just made things worse. Pickering estimates that 20 to 30 percent of EMT workers have left the industry since the pandemic began.
“We also started to see a number of people that were just like, ‘I’m not going to do this. I’m not going to subject my family, my friend or myself to something you can’t see,'” said Pickering.
AMR has tried wage increases to attract potential new hires but it hasn’t always worked out like they hoped.
“As one company increases wages and another company doesn’t, it just turns into an employee shuffle. Basically, employees just jump from place to place,” said Pickering.
One positive, Pickering said, is AMR’s Learn While You Earn program. This has been successful in filling up some of the open spots.