TOPEKA, (KSNT) – It’s a slow return to the workforce for some industries that are struggling to find workers, as jobs open back up during the coronavirus pandemic. Kansas prisons are the latest to join that list with employers desperately seeking new hires.

Randall Bowman, Public Affairs Director for the Kansas Department of Corrections, told Kansas Capitol Bureau on Tuesday that it’s a “unique time” for employees and employers.

“It’s the same thing that every employer is facing right now, whether that’s the restaurant industry or the manufacturing industry,” Bowman said. “It’s really an employee-centered job market right now, instead of an employer-centered job market right now.”

Bowman said this gives people seeking jobs an advantage, or opportunity to take on a new career path, and encourages employers to explore strategies that will help recruit and retain employees.

In Kansas, corrections officers are in high demand. Bowman said facilities took a major hit during the pandemic, seeing the number of open positions accelerate, starting in January this year.

“We were 71 vacant uniformed officers a year ago, and are approaching 300 today, which is about 13% of our uniformed staff,” he said.

It’s an issue other parts of the country are experiencing, with some U.S. prisons down by thousands of officers.

The shortage of workers has taken a toll on a variety of industries across the state, but unlike some fields where employees are able to take on multiple roles at a time, Bowman noted that positions like those for corrections officers require specialized training.

Some of the consequences of fewer workers in correctional facilities include cutting down activities for prisoners, and longer hours for prison staff, as they try to adjust to the changes.

“In two of our facilities we’ve gone to 12-hour shifts instead of our standard 8-hour shifts, so it definitely does make it more complex,” Bowman said.

Openings extend from officer positions all the way to maintenance staff.

To find out more about open positions, click here.