comscore Q&A with Workforce Career Fair executive director Beth Busch | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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Q&A with Workforce Career Fair executive director Beth Busch

  • DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Beth Busch, executive director of the Workforce Career Fair, predicts major changes in the post-pandemic marketplace.

    DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Beth Busch, executive director of the Workforce Career Fair, predicts major changes in the post-pandemic marketplace.

How will you be adapting your next job fair on June 24 (www.workforcehonolulu.com/new-events) to social-distancing needs?

Our floor plan is changing to keep booths farther apart and spread attendees out as much as possible. Masks will be required and handshakes discouraged. Jobseekers will be given staggered arrival times (based alphabetically) and we’re planning to turn the room (and the parking lot) as quickly as possible.

Simultaneously, we’re producing a Virtual Job Fair. This will let jobseekers research ahead of time and do less browsing at the event.

What’s your assessment of how the business “reopening” has been handled here?

I think it’s early to judge how the “reopening” has been handled as we’re still in the early stages. In talking with clients, most are looking for strong, clear guidance regarding what will be required so they can reopen accordingly.

Will all employees need face masks? If so, a businesses can’t open until they have enough for every employee for every shift and a way to launder them and have a continual supply. If restaurants have to keep tables a certain distance apart or otherwise limit the number of people in their establishment at one time, they’ll require fewer waitstaff. How many people can share an Uber ride?

Once that information is provided, I think businesses can adapt and reopen very quickly. Some, especially those tied to tourism, will open gradually as visitors return.

Do you have any sense of which current job categories will be most available in the recovery period?

​To a great extent, this will be determined by how fast tourism comes back. ​In UHERO’s survey results released April 27 they report: “…many businesses surveyed anticipate they will be able to open and re-hire staff as soon as state and county officials indicate it is safe to do so.”

About 60% of businesses said they could return to full staff almost immediately, while the rest would phase in employees as tourism returns to the islands.

But the pandemic will also create new positions we’ve never seen before. I think a significant number of people will continue to work from home and that will create a need for IT people to coordinate telecommuters, protect a company’s network and provide maintenance for home computers. Much as companies drug-test their employees now, they may have to test and track their workers for some time to come. This will create a new position (or more work for HR.)

What new employment opportunities may result from the COVID-19 crisis?

​I think one way we’ll look back at the pandemic is as the “Great Disruptor.” You’ll hear entrepreneurs and business leaders talk about disrupting or shaking up a business or industry, causing consumers to accept a whole new way of doing things. Convincing customers they can bank online. Or book their own travel. Or use Uber instead of taking a cab.

The pandemic has forced business to adopt new ways of doing things very quickly, with little to no planning or testing. And it’s pushed many consumers to become more comfortable with doing business online. From ordering groceries to renewing your car registration, to “Zooming” family reunions. We’re going to see a big leap in digital business.

Employers who doubted letting employees work from home could be successful are finding that it can be efficient and cost-effective. It can also mean happier, healthier employees who will have less stressful lives, no commute and can attend to family and childcare issues they would otherwise have to work into a very tight schedule.

From four-day work weeks to Zoom meetings to flexible schedules — virtually everything is on the table.

We won’t know exactly what new roles there will be until we see what the “new normal” looks like, but we know we’ll need IT support to network employees working from home.

From apps that track people to keep tabs on the virus to new platforms for virtual events, programming and software development is going to be a very busy field. And home delivery will grow and evolve. We may need a lot more drone operators!

Any other changes this pandemic might cause?

On the flip side, we will certainly lose some positions. If menus become electronic and are viewed on your phone, that will impact the printing business. As shopping and services move online, fewer sales associates and cashiers will be needed. If telemedicine continues to grow and patients don’t return to waiting rooms, receptionists may become a thing of the past.

Change can be painful, especially when it pushes us outside our comfort zone. But we shouldn’t look at it as a bad thing. Whether it’s taking a hard look at “how we’ve always done things” to considering goals and thinking of new ways to get there, shaking everything up can only move us forward. It’s going to be a bumpy ride but the Great Disruptor is about to do its thing.

THE BIO FILE

>> Title: President, Success Advertising Hawaii; Executive Director, Workforce Career Fair

>> Years in business: 36

>> Education: Bachelor’s degrees in journalism and English literature

>> Family: Henny Lee, loyal Scottish Terrier and surf dog

>> Other community roles: Patsy T. Mink Center for Business & Leadership, board member

>> Fun fact: When not at work, I can often be found under water. Scuba diving is my passion; it’s an amazing world and a great stress-reliever!

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