HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Nationwide, the workforce has seen over 47 million people voluntarily resign from their jobs.
It's coined 'The Great Resignation" and it's hitting close to home, with several Hampton Roads companies scrambling to find enough employees.
"The business community is starving for people right now," said Steve Cook, the chief innovation officer for the Hampton Roads Workforce Council.
This is just one of the many lingering impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the world. Experts say the pandemic showed employees different ways of working, and now they're taking advantage of their options.
"If you want to remain relevant and be able to move forward in this economy, you're going to have to be thinking outside of the box of what [you're] offering your employees," Cook explained.
Currently, according to theVirginia Employment Commission, Hampton Roads has the second-highest unemployment rate in the state.
One reason for this, Cook says, is that the culture around employment is changing.
"It's not the world where you work 20+ years at one company nowadays," he explained. "You have options."
Those options were brought to light throughout the pandemic.
For instance, a single parent may have discovered working from home is more financially, and even emotionally, beneficial.
"You have folks with childcare issues that just don't have the services they need to help them get back into the workplace," said Cook.
This is forcing companies to offer never-before-seen incentives like 4-day work weeks, better retirements plans, thousands of dollars in sign-on bonuses and, of course, higher pay.
"I think really what it boils down to is pay," said Cook.
News 3 reporter Penny Kmitt asked where companies are getting this money from. Cook responded by saying, "A lot of them are just doing what they have to do."
Another new and popular incentive is free job training.
"Companies are right now really looking for people to just come in the door that are willing to go to work and do the job and they'll help you get trained," said Cook.
A local flooring company, IFPC, says free training has been a successful hiring and retention strategy.
"We're always looking for great people," said Jon Solomon, the owner of IFPC. "If they do not have the skillset, we're willing to train them. We're just looking for people who are looking to do great things."
A new employee with IFPC, Karissa Boyd, says free training and education made the job attractive to her.
"If I want to go to school for anything pertaining to my trade or another program that I take an interest in, they will help me get enrolled in that," she explained.
The Hampton Roads Workforce Council is also offering a free training program called HR Strong.
It's an 11-week long welding program in coordination with the Virginia Ship Repair Association and local community colleges.
While Cook says jobs are desperately needed in trade industries right now, other professions facing intense worker shortages are healthcare, logistics and transportation, IT and manufacturing.
"A job seeker really has the ability to pick and chose where they want to go," Cook added.
Many of these incentives were offered Wednesday at the workforce council's largest job fair this year, where over 120 employers filled the Hampton Roads Convention Center.
The Hampton Roads Workforce Council and IFPC are hosting a job fair on Tuesday, April 19th.