Tennessee Riverboat Company getting creative to find part-time employees

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Tennessee Riverboat Company is looking to hire several employees for part-time positions, and the owner is targeting a specific group to meet the need: moms.

The river cruise line operates seasonally, so when COVID-19 hit, Bailee Bridwell said employees were faced with an additional three months of unpaid time off–including her family. Bridwell said when The Star of Knoxville resumed operations in June 2020, it was tough finding employees to cover shifts. She usually had at least five deckhands and five servers working per shift. After reopening, she only had two per shift.

“Me, my brother and my husband have ridden every single cruise since then. So that’s been kind of hard and we’re kind of tired of it, and my mom’s kind of tired of it because she’s having to watch all the kids,” Bridwell said.

Bridwell had twins around the same time her company reopened. So, not only was she putting in extra shifts at work, but she was doing so with two babies on her side and a third running around.

“So I had this like carrier, I put one in the front, one in the back and they just worked with me every day because. I mean, that’s what I had to do,” Bridwell said.

Bridwell tried finding employees anywhere she could without any luck. “I’ve done listings on Indeed, I’ve done listings on Facebook, I’ve done listings on Craigslist. I’ve like been super trying–and ZipRecruiter,” Bridwell said.

Marianne Wanamaker, an associate professor of economics at the University of Tennessee, said what Bridwell is one of many business owners struggling to find employees.

Wanamaker said there are three different categories of why people haven’t returned to work yet: unemployment insurance (or what she likes to call uncertainty insurance), people who don’t plan to come back to work and those who are truly concerned about their health during the pandemic (even if they’ve been vaccinated).

She said she calls unemployment claims ‘uncertainty insurance’ because those people are waiting for more certainty before going back to work.

“They want to know more about what the labor market is going to look like, what their kid’s daycare or school situation is going to look like, what the health implications are going to be,” Wanamaker said.

She said another reason why some haven’t come back to work is because they don’t plan to return at all. Wanamaker said a new report claimed about 1.5 million people retired during the pandemic. She said others just plan to take a little longer break from working to take care of the kids or household.

Then there are those who are truly worried about their health, according to Wanamaker. She said some people who got the vaccine are hesitant about the efficacy or variants of the virus and want to stay home for those reasons.

In total, Wanamaker said there are about 16 million people in the U.S. claiming unemployment. So, there are workers out there. But, she said, unemployment benefits are not totally to blame for the shortage of staff.

“If you turned off all the unemployment insurance tomorrow, I don’t necessarily think you’ll get all the 10 million jobs back. People are out of the labor force for a bunch of different reasons. But yes, the people are there. It’s just a question of are people willing to work and under what conditions,” Wanamaker said.

Bridwell knows salary-wise and hourly-wise, she can’t compete with other employers who are also currently struggling to find employees. Most of her positions are only part-time, but she said they offer some perks that moms would love including free admission to 25 different local attractions.

“Right now I’ve got a list of 25 that we partner with and all of my employees can go up there unlimited times and it’s just really awesome,” Bridwell said.

That list includes Dollywood, several Ripley’s attractions, NASCAR $5 wristband, Ober Gatlinburg, Beyond the Lens, Titanic, Wonderworks, Zoo Knoxville, Comedy Barn, Country Tonight, Alcatraz, The Island and Muse Knoxville.

“If you just work one day a week you can get this paycheck stub and you can go unlimited times. One of my servers, she has eight kids. So for her, her husband and her eight kids, that would be a grand at minimum everywhere she went,” Bridwell said.

Bridwell said employees could work just one day a month to enjoy those perks. Plus, the actual shift would be a unique experience. Employees get to see Knoxville from a different angle: along the Tennessee River.

She said operations changed a lot after the pandemic. They no longer serve a buffet, so they need servers to plate the dinners. They also aren’t selling liquor at the moment, so they don’t need a bartender, just someone who can pass out beer or wine and non-alcoholic beverages.

Right now, Bridwell is looking for about 10 to 15 positions to fill–anywhere from a desk job and booking reservations, to being deckhands and servers.

If you would like to apply, you can give the Tennessee Riverboat Company a call at 865-525-7827, or email them at reservations@tnriverboat.com.

For other available jobs in the area, head to ‘Who’s Hiring,’ page, by clicking here.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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