Manufacturing companies in Bowling Green are struggling to fill entry-level positions with permanent workers. However, the city has a current unemployment rate of 3.9%, which is lower than the Ohio state average of 4.4%.
According to Sue Clark, Bowling Green economic development executive director, the low unemployment rate is an indicator that fewer civilians are actively searching for jobs in the community. While the unemployment rate is low in comparison to the state average, companies like Vehtek Systems are reporting that they are having difficulty recruiting permanent workers.
Tim Hendricks, Vehtek Systems Human Resources Generalist, said that the rapid production growth in his Bowling Green Vehtek facility has greatly increased the need for more entry-level skilled and unskilled workers.
“The biggest area where we have available openings is our second shift, which runs from 3 to 11:30 p.m.,” Hendricks said. “It is very difficult to find skilled workers who are willing to sacrifice their evenings and work these odd hours.”
In addition to finding versatile workers, manufacturing companies are trying to dispel the negative stigma surrounding factory jobs. Mary Dewitt, Wood County Social Services Administrator, said that manufacturing companies are doing a multitude of things to recruit for their positions and encourage younger workers to consider a career in manufacturing.
Companies are engaging in social media, using referrals from their employees to hire new workers, offering sign-on bonuses, increasing wages, offering staffing services, giving students tuition reimbursement and recruiting workers from other companies.
The Bowling Green Economic Development Foundation is working closely with Penta Career Center to encourage adult education classes and factory safety training courses. Clark said that it is “particularly difficult” convincing local, young adults to apply for manufacturing jobs, when they have grown up next door to a moderate-sized state university.
“We need to change the way we look at jobs in this country,” Clark said. “I think there’s a lot of factors in recent years; parents think of manufacturing jobs as a dead end and low-paying. However, a lot of these jobs are well-paid and many companies offer college credit or will pay for trade school.”
The Ohio Means Jobs Wood County Center has started a project where they will be connecting junior and senior students from local high schools with manufacturers. The manufacturing companies are beginning to host open houses for middle school and high school students, in hopes that they can show them what an actual manufacturing job looks and feels like.
According to Dewitt, a short-term training program or a technical school degree may lead participants to a job where a company will offer new hires $16 per hour, shortly after graduation, which is almost double Ohio’s current minimum wage of $8.55 per hour. Benefits like health care plans, 401K packages and insurance coverage are also incentives that could appeal to young civilians starting their careers
“The manufacturing environment has changed drastically over the last several years, and our goal is to expose them to a career pathway that no one in our society really talks about,” Dewitt said.
Both Dewitt and Clark agreed that the future of manufacturing is changing due to the onset of STEM programming in high school curriculums and an increase in overall robotics use. While companies are accepting more entry-level workers without college degrees, Clark anticipates that the need for more engineers and skilled trades will also steadily increase in the future.
“While many people think that manufacturing means working a hard labor job in a hot, dirty environment, the truth is the environment has changed. I have been to many manufacturing facilities where it is lovely 72 degrees inside year-round. The buildings are bright, clean and the wages and benefits are incredible,” Dewitt said.