This month, to name a few, Ada Technologies and AAP St. Marys Corp. are looking for computer numerical controlled machiners. Crown Equipment Corp. and Select-Arc Inc. need welders. Nickles Bakery, Pro-pet, Whirlpool, Grief, AAP St. Marys and Setex are hiring industrial electricians and mechanics.
Tool and die maker, chemical operator, millwright, grain operator. The list of skilled manufacturing, industrial and operator jobs goes on and on, and unfilled even in this soft economy, because employers say they can't find qualified workers. There continues to be a disconnect between a still too-high unemployment rate (especially when factoring in people who have stopped looking for work) and unfilled jobs.
"Two weeks ago, we did five company visits, business retention and expansion visits, and every one of those companies said they have job openings in the skilled trades, machine repair, tool makers, machine operators, welders," said Jeff Sprague, vice president at Allen Economic Development Group. "Everyone we interview says this is a national issue. A little bit of a decline in the quality of the workforce, the stability of the workforce."
Chamber and development officials say companies tell them they struggle to find people who can pass a drug test and show up to work on time, people who dress appropriately and know when it's time to focus on work and not a Facebook feed. But the issue is more complicated than that, said Marilyn Horstman, who runs Allen County ACCENT, a "one-stop" agency that plays matchmaker for employees and employers, and provides training and employment services under the umbrella of Allen County Job and Family Services.
ACCENT does provide training in some of the "soft skills," such as resume building, interviewing and yes, being a reliable, prompt employee. But ACCENT clients also often need help with child care and transportation. If the job isn't on a bus line, they can't apply for it, because while they have a new training certificate from Rhodes State in their hands, they don't have a car.
"Low-income people can have some big barriers to employment," Horstman said. "Transportation, especially in Lima and Allen County, is a huge issue."
Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce President Jed Metzger works on a committee that is working on those kinds of issues, the nitty gritting of studying if a new route for Lima Allen County Regional Transit Authority, for example, is worth studying, or looking at other public and private transit services.
Also, some of the jobs, especially at an entry level, are being filled with staffing agencies. To begin with, a job can be part time, without benefits, with work that isn't always stable. Imagine taking the bus to a third shift, only to be told you're not needed that day, with no way to get home, Horstman said.
"Sometimes we'll hear from people that if a company has no loyalty to an employee, why should they show loyalty to a company" and take a temp job, Horstman said. "It's on both sides, and there are no easy answers."
Some companies are limiting their liability and expense in entry-level employees by working with temp agencies, development officials said. By going that route, they're not putting money into training an employee who doesn't work out. The change began after Sept. 11, 2001, Metzger said, when the economy experienced its first recent slowdown. Then came the housing bubble bursting and market crash, creating the Great Recession. It has produced a fundamental shift in how companies operate.
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