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Help wanted: Numbers are up at N.C. Zoo, but staffing is down

Help wanted: Numbers are up at N.C. Zoo, but staffing is down

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ASHEBORO — The North Carolina Zoo has been bursting with people and energy lately.

Admissions shot up from 72,877 in all of 2020 to 217,327 in just the first few months of 2021. With vaccinations levels going up, the Zoo has gotten rid of capacity restrictions, allowing visitors to come in without a reservation.

That’s the good news.

However, staffing issues have prevented the Zoo from being able to open all of their exhibits.

“Like just about every other business out there, we’re having difficulty finding applicants,” says Diane Villa, the Zoo’s director of communications and marketing.

A recent job fair helped beef up the staff, but not enough.

“We had 20 people turn out for dozens and dozens of open positions, so we’re continuing to plug away with that,” she said. “We’re partnering where we can with places like Goodwill and Salvation Army who also hold job fairs, and we’re continuing to advertise locally.”

While most of the attractions are open, the Air Hike Ropes Course — an obstacle course with swinging logs — has remained closed all season. So have other attractions.

Many of the zoo’s jobs are seasonal and meant to be filled during warmer months when more people frequent the attraction.

Still, the North Carolina Zoo has not been the only business struggling to find people. In the post-pandemic age, restaurants and retail businesses, too, are in need of a warm body. Any body.

“Every employer that we speak to is struggling, and that’s across the board,” said Lisa Martinez, an official with the Department of Commerce.


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