Local businesses are offering cash, classes and more for new hires

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A record shortage of workers in the service and hospitality industry is prompting businesses to offer unheard of incentives to potential employees.

That includes all kinds of perks from bonuses to housing.

Right now, getting people to work is not easy. Some are concerned about getting sick, others have childcare issues and many aren't willing to give up enhanced and consistent federal and state unemployment benefits.

So now employers are getting creative to get people hired.

"I feel like if you go anywhere, like every storefront I'm seeing is like 'help wanted, help wanted, help wanted,'" said food runner Dylan Abhsie.

Cuba Libre normally has 80 employees in Philadelphia but right now it has only half its staff.

"So we need about 40 people," said co-owner Barry Gutin. "We're trying to make not just the job better, but we're trying to make our employees' lives better."

To get more people like Abhsie, Cuba Libre is offering tuition reimbursement for personal finance courses.

"In addition, we have a lot of recent immigrants that work for us, in particular in the back of the house that have no English skills. So we're offering English as a second language course," said Gutin.

And the same goes for English-only speakers to learn Spanish.

"So that we can get a really cohesive communication going, and even a better team spirit that we have right now," he said.

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Cuba Libre is also offering a first-year welcome bonus of $250 as well as referral bonuses.

"So a new employee might earn $250 for themselves and $600 for each person they refer that gets hired," he said.

And get this: employees can get that money in cryptocurrency. Plus, wages have gone up about two dollars more an hour.

Wawa is also offering big money to recruits.

"It's $500 as a new-hire incentive. It's $300 if you decide to get your vaccine, and once you're working with us, bring us one of your friends and you get a $500 referral bonus as well," said Director of Operations Jason Read.

Wawa workers also get a free shorti hoagie every shift, health insurance, employee stock options and an above minimum wage.

Cape Resorts, which has eight properties in Cape May including Congress Hall, is offering team members an affordable place to live.

"We just closed a hotel a block from the beach a week ago. We've been able to recruit 90 people to our team who will then have access to housing," said owner Curtis Bashaw.

And like Cuba Libre, the hospitality chain is also offering an education.

"Giving them courses they can take optionally in the evening, where those of us in senior management meet with them and talk about how to start a business, about marketing, finance, accounting," he said.

Abhsie said she thinks those kinds of incentives, in particular, will pay off.

"Those types of programs are going to be very beneficial for your employees and for your company overall," she said.
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