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Photo by Dave Flessner / The McDonald's restaurant in Ooltewah is among 44 McDonald's restaurants in the Chattanooga region that collectively are seeking 1,224 more workers to help staff up for the summer ahead.

McDonald's wants to beef up the staffing at its 44 restaurants in the Chattanooga region as it reopens dining rooms and prepares for a busier summer season ahead.

The fast-food chain is trying to hire 8,000 more workers across Tennessee, including another 1,224 in the Chattanooga region.

"Tennessee has had one of the strongest economic recoveries in the country because employers like McDonald's continue to help Tennesseans get back in the workforce," Tennessee Governor Bill Lee said in an announcement of the hiring plans.

Those looking to work at any area McDonald's can apply on site any weekday next week with on-the-spot interviews, the company said. McDonald's said it pays competitive wages and offers flexible hours, job training and career advancement opportunities.

"Our crew members are the people who make our McDonald's restaurants shine," said Kerry Hoyle, one of the local McDonald's franchise restaurants. "We have positions for all ages, from high school students looking for an after-school job to an adult looking for their next career."

But filling all of those jobs could prove difficult in the current tight labor market with some workers still reluctant to return to work amid the ongoing pandemic and others still getting enhanced unemployment benefits as part of the federal stimulus program. Many restaurants and small businesses in the hospitality industry are struggling to fill existing jobs even as more employment opportunities open up as the busier summer tourism season approaches.

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development on Friday listed 257,492 job openings, or nearly 54% more jobs than the 167,333 people who were unemployed in the state in March, state figures show.

McDonald's and other employers are trying to reassure anxious would-be workers they have a safe environment. McDonald's said it has implemented more than 50 COVID-19 safety procedures to protect crew and customers at its restaurants, including wellness and temperature checks, social distancing floor stickers, protective barriers at order points and masks and gloves for employees. Each restaurant has also implemented additional safety and health training and procedures.

Hoyle said a summer job at McDonald's prepares employees with on-the-job training for future careers within McDonald's and beyond.

"In addition to gaining experience and knowledge in the hospitality industry, McDonald's restaurant employees develop teamwork, customer service, responsibility and time management skills," he said.

McDonald's is among a number of area employers planning hiring events next week as they gear up for the summer and try to hire many high school and college students for summer jobs.

On Wednesday, Food City will be hosting a company-wide hiring event at all of its 135 grocery stores to hire both full-time and part-time positions.

Food City is seeking to hire over 2,000 workers across its company and will accept applications throughout the day next Wednesday at all of its stores. Food City said it is hiring both entry-level positions and experienced, skilled workers, such as meat cutters, cake decorators, and retail management, positions, as well as various warehousing and distribution positions.

Next Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the James A. Henry YMCA at 615 Derby Street, several nonprofit agencies are jointly conducting a job fair for available summer positions.

During the job fair, applicants can talk with different nonprofits, including The Bethlehem Center, Boys and Girls Club of Chattanooga, Chambliss Center for Children, Girls Inc., Northside Neighborhood House, and the YMCA of Greater Chattanooga, in addition to Hamilton County School Age Child Care.

Candidates are encouraged to bring resumes and be prepared to complete paperwork onsite, as the agencies present work to fill open positions at camps. While most agencies desire candidates 18 and above, several nonprofits are willing to hire rising juniors and seniors from local high schools.

"Over 100 openings are ready to be filled for the upcoming camp season, and we wanted to provide an easy and quick way for people to connect with our nonprofit community," said Bill Rush of the YMCA.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340

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