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With Central Oregon Unemployment rates at 40-year Lows, Mt Bachelor Ski
 Resort Desperate for Labor; Plans to Recruit Students from Brazil,
 Argentina, Chile and Peru
By Anna Sowa, The Bulletin, Bend, Ore.McClatchy-Tribune Business News

Oct. 23, 2006 - With Central Oregon unemployment rates at 40-year lows and many companies desperate for labor, Mt. Bachelor ski resort is improving some benefits and wages to try to attract the 400 seasonal workers it needs to hire before the season starts next month.

The ski area also plans to go outside the United States again to help fill its ranks as it did last year when it hired 35 Peruvian college students. Mt. Bachelor plans to increase that number this year, tapping students from Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Peru through exchange programs, spokeswoman Janette Sherman said.

The students will work service-level positions that pay the state minimum wage of $7.50 per hour.

Mt. Bachelor has to hire 400 seasonal positions each winter for positions ranging from lift attendants to food-service workers to ski instructors. The ski school has the most openings, around 200, Sherman said. At peak operations in December and January, the ski area employs about 800 people.

To staunch turnover and retain employees, the mountain is doing what labor experts say employers must do in a low-unemployment environment: be creative and competitive in hiring.

Mt. Bachelor is adding benefits like half-off its child-care services for employees and is offering returning workers product-testing coupons, which can be used like free ski passes that can be given to friends or family. Workers will continue to receive free transportation to the mountain from a Bend park-and-ride lot and free season passes.

Certain positions, like lift maintenance workers and ski instructors, also will see wage increases. Veteran ski instructors may see pay increases of 25 percent, Sherman said, and lift mechanics' wages this year will start between $11.30 and $12.50 per hour.

Sherman said the changes are a way to entice and retain workers.

The ski area also hopes to reduce turnover by paying special attention to how applicants are screened and placed in positions.

Mt. Bachelor is holding meetings with new hires to explain the requirements of each position. That way, workers will know what to expect and can choose the position right for them, Sherman said.

"Yes, we are trying to improve turnover," Sherman said. "What larger businesses like us are finding in Central Oregon is we have to be creative in hiring and really show the benefits of working here instead of another place," Sherman said.

Mt. Bachelor representatives have been participating in recent job fairs and plan on attending another one before December, Sherman said.

"We've been accepting applications all summer and have filled quite a few (positions)," Sherman said. "But there are still quite a few left to fill."

Offering incentives like child care can help recruit what employment experts say are more workers with families coming to the High Desert.

"What we've seen in last year or so is an influx of very highly skilled, experienced people ages 30 to 35 and on up," said Jan Baker, owner of the human resources consulting company Jan Baker Facilitates in Bend. "We don't see many resumes from (the) younger work force, ages 18 to 25."

The ski area's labor initiatives also come after it received some complaints from employees last season that resulted in a state Bureau of Labor and Industries finding that Mt. Bachelor did not offer adequate break and meal periods. The bureau has required Mt. Bachelor to address the issues and will assess the changes when the season begins.

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To see more of The Bulletin, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.bendbulletin.com

Copyright (c) 2006, The Bulletin, Bend, Ore.

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