RAPID CITY, S.D. — Workforce instability has been a concern in Rapid City recently.
Elevate Rapid City held a workshop to Revitalize the Workforce, specifically for employers of high crisis individuals. Hiring and maintaining a workforce has been difficult, and although the unemployment rates are returning to normal, the labor participation rate is still struggling. In Rapid City, only 60% of working age adults, those 15 or older, are in the workforce or looking for work.
“So we have about 56,000 individuals right here in Rapid City that are not working…they’re not looking for work,” said Elevate Director of Workforce Development and Talent Management, Samantha McGrath. “That number continues to go up. It’s still tricky for individuals to maintain employment. And so a lot of time we see individuals get that job, but then something happens and they lose that job.”
The median monthly income for a full time employee in the city is just over $2,000, but for families of a single adult and two children, over $3,000 is needed to meet basic needs – made more difficult by the fact that Rapid City is has a shortage of affordable housing and over 60% of that income is spent on housing. So while, two out of three people living in poverty in Rapid City have jobs, they are still considered high crisis employees.
“Any individual that you hire, that you know is really struggling with the three core basic needs,” said McGrath. “And that’s housing, transportation, and if they have children, then child care. Without those three things, it’s really hard for individuals to be successful at work.”
Employers were encouraged to understand the issues that plague high crisis employees, encourage open communication, and consider flexible scheduling – especially for individuals with children or unreliable transportation. Some workshop participants were surprised to learn that part of what has kept the workforce unsteady is the lack of flexibility for parents. With classes being virtual, many parents have struggled to work around their children’s schedules and maintain employment. To help individuals that find themselves in this position, it was recommended to also have a resource navigator.
“Having a resource navigator on staff kinda gives your employees a go-to person that they can reach out to when transportation issues arise, or they’ve lost childcare for a shift,” said McGrath. “It gives them someplace, or an individual that they can make contact with to alleviate some of those stressors that might traditional cause them to just drop out of the workforce.
Looking through the lens of poverty and crisis, Elevate says employers can help create better environments for high crisis individuals that will improve their lives, their families lives, and the community at large.