As omicron continues to spread, Arizona organizations, schools are trying hard to fill job vacancies

As the omicron-fueled COVID-19 surge continues, organizations and schools in Arizona are doing what they can to hire new workers for job vacancies that have popped up.

Embry Health holding rapid hiring events

The recent surge in COVID-19 cases means there is record demand for testing, and that has led to a Phoenix area diagnostic company seeking hundreds of employees.

Embry Health operates more than 80 drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites across Arizona, and they are hosting rapid hiring sites, like one at Mesa Community College.

When people drive up to the site, they later drive away with a new job that has the starting pay of $20 an hour.

Applicants say it wasn’t just a paycheck they were looking for.

"I feel like it would be a good way to help out the community," said Nicole Ochoa.

"I am a retired LPN and looking to help the current crisis, so I’m re entering the job market after three years of retirement," said Laura Evans.

Embry Health launched nearly three years ago, at the start of the pandemic. At first, they were testing 15,000 people a day for COVID, but that number has more than doubled.

"If our organization is staffed for about 15,000 patients, we go up to 40,000, that puts enormous pressure on everyone in the organization," said Embry Health CEO Raymond Embry. "Over the past week, we’ve been able to hire and onboard over 300 employees, significantly bringing wait times down."

There is no wait for those wanting to work, and many applicants arrived and were hired in less than an hour.

"Just took my info, told me what the pay start was, and what time to be here tomorrow morning," said Ochoa.

"Scary, but it would do my soul good to know that I am helping others," said Evans.

Embry said this is not a dead end job, and expects there will be opportunities for promotions, even after the pandemic is over.

"Tomorrow could be managing one. They could be working in our lab division, or in our ambulatory clinics," said Embry.

Besides the rapid hiring site at Mesa Community College, there are two other similar sites, one at the former Metrocenter in Phoenix, and the other at Estrella Community College.

Embry Health Careers

School districts facing substitute teacher shortages

Besides a teacher shortage, school districts across Arizona are experiencing a shortage in substitute teachers as well.

Officials at the Mesa School District say they are experiencing a 220% increase in absences of teachers due to the ongoing shortage, as well as COVID-19.

"We’ve had a teacher shortage for years before the pandemic, and it was a severe one, a very critical one," said Justin Wing, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources for the Mesa School District. "The pandemic exacerbated it. The new variant right now, with absences exponentially increased, the severe crisis that we’re experiencing."

Wing said many other school districts are experiencing this exact same problem.

"I’m also a board member of the Arizona Personnel Administrators Association, a human resource association representing schools throughout Arizona," said Wing. "Yesterday, I spoke to 11 different school districts. Their major concern: lack of substitute coverage or absences."

Wing says in an effort to fill the gaps, a majority of the districts he spoke to, including Mesa Public Schools, are emergency sub certifying anyone who is classified.

"Currently, you’re required to have a Bachelor's Degree and a fingerprint clearance card to obtain a substitute teacher certificate. I do know that many school districts are emergency sub certifying individuals with a high school diploma or greater," said Wing.

Mesa Public Schools Substitute Services

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