'Gig' economy takes on Bakersfield workforce

An Instacart shopper and customer are seen in a photo provided by Colter Communications.

When Instacart launched in Bakersfield this week, the company was careful not to call the new openings "jobs."

The company is hiring 100 new contracted "personal shoppers," but they will not be full-time employees.

Instead, the company is tailoring its hiring to individuals seeking part-time "flexible" employment. For job-seekers, this is characterized as a perfect position for people hoping to earn extra cash with a second job. For economists, this type of industry is more formally known as the "gig economy."

So how does a contracted employee differ from a traditional one? Employers Training Resource Director Teresa Hitchcock said its tailored to employees who want the freedom of being their own boss.

"You're just working the hours that you want to work, it's very flexible," Hitchcock said. "For the person who is doing this for the few extra bucks or to pay off that credit card, this is a fantastic opportunity to do that. But as far as full-time employment, there's a lot of things that need to be addressed."

Some concerns, Hitchcock pointed out, pertain to employee benefits. Contracted workers usually don't qualify for insurance coverage or a retirement plan.

Hitchcock discouraged any employee from relying on a contracted job for a sole income. But if a job-seeker is hoping to add a second source of income, she recommends the contracted applicant research the company benefits before taking the leap.

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