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Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Skilled workers needed

Many good-paying jobs unfilled, local officials say

By Christine Henderson

Don Eisenhut of Fort Recovery, left, maintenance employee at Sunny Side Farm, a. . .

CELINA - Grand Lake area companies are having difficulty finding skilled workers for many good-paying positions, local officials say.
"It's a misconception that manufacturing jobs are dead in Ohio and people should go to college," Scott Frey, director of the Southwestern Auglaize County Chamber of Commerce, said during a recent panel discussion. "Whether it is skilled factory jobs or factory floor work, the jobs are out there and companies are having difficulty filling them."
"It's a myth there are no jobs," agreed Angela Hamberg, director of economic development for the village of New Bremen. "There are 150 job openings in New Bremen."
Shelly Busse, a production manager at Crown Equipment Corp., based in New Bremen, said the company "is struggling to find qualified applicants."
Officials with several local companies shared the same concern during a Business to Business Expo in Celina on Thursday.
High school guidance counselors give students the information they are provided, which is about colleges and military careers, not manufacturing jobs, Hamberg said. Manufacturers and the communities should let students know what jobs are available without a four-year degree, she said.
"We need to be filling the vocational schools," Janet Moden, manufacturing personnel manager at Crown, said.
She noted a four-year college is not for everyone, and others may want to work first. Many companies even offer tuition reimbursement.
At Crown, about 100 jobs are unfilled in salaried and hourly classifications, including 12 welders and 20 machinists. Overall, 75 of the jobs are in manufacturing and skilled assembly, Moden said.
The greatest need at Minster Machine is for machinists, said Brian Styer, the company's employee relations manager. The company has about 25 job openings, which include foundry workers, machine tool builders and skilled assemblers.
Machinists and welders start at $15-17 an hour, depending on experience, and the top pay is in the $20 an hour range, Moden and Styer said.
While employment is relatively stable at Dannon Inc. in Minster, it is more challenging to find skilled production line workers, mechanics and engineers, said Michael Neuwirth, senior director of public relations. The company is seeking engineers and experienced production workers.
Cooper Foods, headquartered in St. Henry, has enough applications to fill its needs, Jack Staugler, director of human resources, said. The business may add 10-12 people in the next six months.
Mercer County Community Economic Development Director Jared Ebbing surveyed local businesses this year and found a need for programmable logic controllers (PLC), welders, machinists, all mechanical manufacturing skill areas, graphic designers, health care workers, basic computer programmers and logistics experts.
Currently, Westfall employment service in St. Marys has multiple companies offering entry level unskilled labor up to skilled welding, computer numerical control (CNC) and laser operators with pay averaging $8 an hour for unskilled to $10-$11.50 for skilled, operations manager Rhonda Bergman said.
During a Buckeye Institute forum held earlier this month, Bill Wente of First National Bank called it an injustice to push four-year colleges on teens. Many young people come out with $50,000 in debt and no job, he said.
June Wuebker, a guidance counselor at Marion Local High School, said few students come to her with an interest in machining trades or factory work.
"Who knows where this is coming from. It could be parents guiding them," she said.
In annual career assessments, many of her students indicate they like hands-on work, but these students are typically interested in construction, farming, electronics and plants and animals, she said.
"I don't tell students what they should be interested in," Wuebker said. "I listen to what they are interested in, and we explore it."
To develop a prepared manufacturing workforce, several schools and companies have formed a coalition to look at training. Educators at Tri Star Career Compact, Wright State University-Lake Campus, Rhodes State, Upper Valley Joint Vocational School and Apollo JVS are working with the West Central Ohio Manufacturing Consortium.

Attitude important:
Finding employees is about people not only having the right skills, but also the proper attitude, Crown Equipment Corp. executives said at a Business to Business Expo panel discussion in Celina on Thursday.
Crown searches for people "who want to work, have a positive attitude and value their job. I am seeing less and less of it," Janet Moden, manufacturing personnel manager, said.
People are using their unemployment benefits and not looking to get back into the job market, she said.
Some people want to stay on unemployment and get cash jobs to supplement, Jack Buschur of Buschur Electric said at a Buckeye Institute forum held earlier in October.
"It is easier than getting up at 8 a.m," he added.
Companies can't always pay enough to compete with unemployment benefits, when the potential worker considers his expenses, Buschur said.
Due to the unstable economy, many business clients are unwilling to commit to long-term employment, said Rhonda Bergman, St. Marys operations manager for Westaff employment service. With the cost of gasoline and child care, some people can't afford to take temporary jobs, and they turn them down.
"They are afraid it will mess up their unemployment or any type of government assistance, or they don't have transportation or child care," Bergman said. "Others say flat out - I can't go to work for one day, it is not worth it."
Bergman's answer: "If you sit at home, you make zero. If you go to work at $8 an hour, how much do you get?"
"I want employees who come to work every day," said Shelly Busse, a Crown production manager. "It seems the younger generation has a different approach to that."
She also is looking for people dedicated to the company and willing to learn.
- Christine Henderson
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