May 7 is the last day Texas A&M students have to take exams, which means summer break is less than two weeks away.
Industries such as restaurants have struggled to rebuild their workforce following the start of the pandemic, according to the Bryan-College Station Chamber of Commerce. So in a place like Aggieland, where thousands of students will be returning home, businesses that rely heavily on the student workforce could face further setbacks.
La Gabriella Coffee Shop and Bakery is located in a shopping center just across from the Texas A&M campus in College Station. Naturally, the business relies heavily on students for its customer base as well as its staffing.
“A lot of our student employees do go home, which can be inconvenient for the business," said Gabriella Vasquez, the coffee shop's co-owner. "But actually, we find that it works out well because there’s always going to be some students who stay... and business typically slows down in the summer anyway, so it kind of works out.”
Vasquez says La Gabriella was able to navigate the financial downfalls of the pandemic by decreasing employee hours and applying for government small business grants.
"We had really solid support from our customer base," she noted. "A lot of locals just really wanted to help us stay open.”
Not all businesses have fared as well as La Gabriella. Chamber of Commerce president Glenn Brewer says many businesses have been struggling to bring in new employees since last March.
"I've been told that a lot of the people who were let go during the pandemic that would do that type of job have found other employment, if they were looking for that, and so they weren’t sitting and waiting to be invited back to their restaurant," he said.
Brewer pointed out that some workers may have opted to continue sustaining themselves on unemployment benefits. Others may be hesitant to begin working without the safeguard of being vaccinated.
Whatever the reasons, local businesses are now competing with each other over a shrunken workforce pool, and the college summer break won’t help that situation, according to Brewer.
"Those are some of the workers they’re looking for, and those are not available," he said. "So that would make the job situation a little bit harder this summer.”
The Chamber of Commerce continues to host events, such as job fairs. Brewer hopes potential employees are enticed by businesses offering starting bonuses and other perks.
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