Albury's busy Dean Street hotels, restaurants and cafes say they are still struggling to cope after COVID nearly wiped out their businesses - not through lack of customers, but rather a dearth of workers to serve them.
The Border Mail visited hospitality hotspots on Thursday afternoon and found a common source of frustration - "we just can't get enough people".
Some said the problem lay with a lack of work ethic, others blamed the COVID shutdowns for embedding a "new normal" of people preferring to make money by working from home, while one said the source of his woes was a scarcity of properly trained staff.
MP Training and Recruitment general manager Craig Cleary said there were several factors in the struggle to find good staff and that the problem wasn't just affecting hospitality bosses.
"The problem is in every industry, and we are struggling to find staff for most of our clients," Mr Cleary said.
"My theory is that 500,000 people left the country when COVID first hit and a lot of them filled casual jobs as they were students or on working visas.
"Most of the people we are placing now are moving from one job to another, so that creates another vacancy that needs to be filled."
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Mr Cleary said people seeking work were spoilt for choices of employment and many were reluctant to work somewhere that had weekend or late-night hours because they could find something else to suit their lifestyle.
His theory that students who used to provide a steady and plentiful supply of casual labour were now hard to find was echoed by some employers on Dean Street.
"Universities are offering early entry to students and most of the entry scores have dropped, so we will also see a lot of our youth move away," Mr Cleary said.
"Some students have changed to distance learning because of COVID so this could mean fewer students moving into town.
"There are a few things at play here and while it is difficult to find staff and it takes a lot longer, it is still possible."
Here's what some of Albury's Dean Street traders had to say:
"In February and March, just after COVID, we definitely had a staff shortage but it slowly picked up again.
"Business is OK for the end of the financial year, plus it's getting colder, but it is hard to find good staff. We're very lucky in that we have great staff on at the moment, but it seems it would be hard to find good staff.
"One problem we've had before is that people are happy to get casual shifts, but they don't want to work weekends.
"There seems to be a generational lack of work ethic which is disappointing.
"We've been here for 32 years, we have built a solid reputation; we get people coming up from Melbourne and over from Sydney, so we can get pretty busy."
"We've had no real trouble getting staff, but I have heard others are having a lot of trouble.
"We get a few resumes come in but we're pretty fussy about who we have here.
"The trouble is finding people who are keen - some people just don't want to work. When COVID restrictions stopped we had a massive influx of people looking for work, but not so much now."
"We've managed OK with front of house staff, but getting back of house staff is a big problem. It seems a lot of people just don't want to work the hard jobs - being a kitchen hand is hard work, but it's work."
"Since COVID, there has been a change in the dynamic and we're finding a lack of people who want to work.
"They've gotten used to staying at home - a lot of people have gotten used to working from home and that's the way things have changed since COVID.
"I see the same in Sydney - in the CBD that used to be so busy, bustling with office workers is now just dead because, for a lot of jobs, there's just no need to go into the office.
"Today I interviewed 15 people for 15 positions just at this franchise and I'm interviewing six more tomorrow. It is hard to find the right staff for our franchise - the work is not difficult, but I look for people with bright, happy attitudes and that can sometimes be hard to find.
"Before COVID, we had a lot of people from overseas who were very keen workers; they want to do traineeships, they want to work. One problem we have is that once we've trained someone up they just go off to somewhere else looking for better pay or a different location."
"Well, just look at all the signs saying 'staff wanted' - we're having a massive problem getting staff.
"We can't open the upstairs part on Saturday because we just can't get enough staff to run it. It's not a lack of customers - business is very good but it's incredibly frustrating trying to find people willing to work.
"With unemployment so low, you've got no one to pick from. We can't open to full capacity because to do so would be putting an incredibly hard and unfair workload on the staff that we have.
"You can't expect the people working here to work more than eight hours.
"Of the 35 positions we have, 12 are full-time - the rest are casual and part-time.
"Before COVID, three-quarters of our casual staff were university students.
"But now uni students can do everything online, so the number willing to work casual weekend shifts has dropped.
"The hardest job to fill is the dishies - none of the young people are prepared to do it, so we have people aged 50 to 60 doing these jobs.
"They're great, they work hard and they want to do it.
"The older people fill in the spots that the young people don't want to work in.
"What we need are backpackers, they work hard, but there aren't any backpackers anymore."
"We've not had a huge problem finding staff, but we're a pretty small operation.
"We only need three people at a time to run this place.
"I can understand the frustration of other bigger operations not being able to find staff, but luckily we don't have that problem."
"I'm not having too much trouble, I place an ad, and people should know how to advertise, I think that is the problem they face.
"I get a few with little experience but I am happy to train, I also hire a lot of people who are disabled and give them a chance because, you know, I believe in them.
"Kitchen hands for example - the chefs do the deserts and I employ people with a disability of some sort to do jobs they are capable of doing.
"After COVID, it's more difficult, because people get used to sitting at home and doing nothing, just to get paid by the government.
"If you get paid $750 when you're sitting at home, why the hell would you work 20 hours and get less than that?
"Especially with the COVID payments, you know, we have this trouble.
"But my staff they've been with me for a good time now, especially my chefs.
"I employ 64 people at ADA and Downtown.
"At just Downtown, I have 14 full-time people and at ADA I have seven full-time people.
"I also have eight delivery drivers.
"I have to get people from outside of Albury because there are no people in Albury with the qualifications I need.
"I pay good money for this - in Albury, you can't find the skilled people, but you can't compromise with this because our customers will suffer.
"I have one chef not fully qualified, but the rest, they have to be qualified."
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