US: Visa cap results in seasonal worker shortage

US: Visa cap results in seasonal worker shortage

RUTLAND, Vermont (AP) — Some Vermont ski resorts and luxury hotels are facing an acute labor shortage because of a congressional cap on the number of special visas issued to international workers who fill seasonal jobs such as ski lift operators and waiters, officials say.

Bob Beach, co-owner of the Basin Harbor Club resort near Lake Champlain in Ferrisburgh, said the cap on H-2B visas for temporary nonagricultural workers has left him scrambling to hire the 300 workers he needs to keep the resort running from May to October.

He said he has longtime seasonal staff members from Jamaica who were waiting to return to Vermont.

“Not only are we having to really search to the extreme to find those replacements, we’re also having to contact those folks to say, ‘It does not look like you’ll be joining us for the summer,'” Beach said.

Congress capped the H-2B visa program nationwide at 66,000 workers. There was an exemption last year that helped alleviate the shortage of workers, but it was not renewed for this year.

Tom Torti of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce said the state’s labor shortage is getting worse as Vermont’s population ages.

The Killington ski resort, the state’s largest, has trouble filling positions in the winter, when its employment need jumps to 1,800 workers from 300 for summer.

“It’s hard to get the international workers,” President and General Manager Mike Solimano told the Burlington Free Press. “On the other hand, nobody local wants the jobs. At times we had a hard time running the lifts because we were short of people.”

He said he’s tried to working with a college or paying more for seasonal jobs. Entry-level pay remains US$11 to US$13 an hour.

“A lot of times in winter, we clear out the administrative offices,” Solimano said. “Everybody is out doing something. We don’t have people in marketing, IT and accounting who get to sit in the office. Maybe they’re not running lifts, but they’re working in the parking lots.”

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