Job vacancies in the Riverina have jumped 67 per cent since February 2020 and Wagga hospitality venues say they are feeling the strain.
New numbers from the Regional Australia Institute show advertisements for roles in Wagga have jumped considerably in 2021, hitting their highest numbers in over 10 years and increasing by 5.4 per cent in the past month alone.
In the hospitality sector, cafes and restaurants say that while business is booming, they are struggling to fill their rosters.
Kim Wilson owns The Brew in Turvey Park where she says getting skilled workers like baristas and chefs has proved a serious struggle.
"It definitely is really hard at the moment," she said. "Baristas in particular are really hard to find."
She says with coffee culture well and truly established in Wagga, there's a new need for truly skilled coffee makers to meet the demand.
"There's a higher demand for good coffee because the quality of coffee is so high now and the machines are so sophisticated," she said. "Where people used to just jump on coffee machines, now we need someone with real skill."
Mock Orange Cafe's Roslyn Mitchell agreed it has become harder to find staff to fill the growing demand.
"We definitely do not have a glut of workers that's for sure," she said. "We have an incredibly harsh skills shortage of chefs in the region and job seeker has lessened our applicants for hospitality positions, they have been significantly down."
She says the same goes for finding a barista up to the task of performing in Wagga, though she adds a thriving coffee culture is a "fabulous" problem to have.
"Its changed, [being] a barista is a real skill, there's a science to great coffee, and our clientele has a great appetite for it," she said.
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She added with many heading off to Sydney or Melbourne, there's a "leakage" of coffee talent in Wagga.
One such man in demand is Matt Mangan who has been in the industry for 15 years and is currently head barista at The Brew.
He said he has seen hospitality venues in Wagga struggling to source skilled workers in recent months.
"Hospitality venues in Wagga are super desperate for people, especially people who have the knowledge and skills for the job," he said.
The strain is also on for hotels and restaurants.
Jamie Pascoe is the general manager of Roundabout Restaurant and the Charles Sturt Suites and Apartments and says now is a particularly tricky time for venues like his.
"I think it's really difficult actually, definitely harder than it used to be," he said.
"We're short staffed and I think everywhere is, we've picked up this massive demand and we're struggling to meet it."
Mr Pascoe said while business flagged for the hotel during COVID it has started to accelerate, a boom he is struggling to meet with limited workers available.
"I think our pool is very small in Wagga of good candidates," Mr Pascoe said.
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