Special Report: Where are the workers? - Tri-State News, Weather & Sports

Special Report: Where are the workers?

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TRI-STATE (WFIE) -

Unemployment is so low, the job market is definitely an applicants market right now.

We met with human resources managers from some of the Tri-State's biggest employers, and here's the consensus.

If you're willing to show up on time every day, take some training, stay away from drugs, and be nice to your co-workers, you could easily be on your way to $40,000, $50,000, even $100,000 dollars a year, all without college.

The airwaves are pulsing with job openings, and job fairs seem to be daily happenings.

In the nine southern Indiana counties served by WorkOne, there are 4,251 job openings. That's not even counting western Kentucky and southern Illinois.

That's a real challenge for human resources managers. First, they have to offer more money.

Rick Jones is with Indiana Tube, a manufacturer of carbon steel tubing. 

"We start off people at $15 an hour. The can go all the way up to $20 an hour," said Jones. "We have excellent benefits, and like I said, if it was a terrible place to work, I wouldn't have people with 40 years of service."

Glen Muehlbauer is with the Koch Enterprises, a diversified manufacturer with seven businesses.

"Our starting wage is moving all the time as we get market data competing against these guys," said Meulbauer. "I just heard his number, so I made a little note of that."

If you like the money but don't have the skills, training is readily available.

One example is the skill-up program. It will pay you to take classes at Ivy Tech with a job waiting at the end.

Unfortunately, not enough people are taking advantage.

"There are 3,400 people in Evansville who are unemployed. We can't get 15 people to come sit in a classroom to get paid to have a career path in front of them," said Muehlbauer. "So it's shocking to some degree. It's a little scary to think about and certainly disappointing."

Employers are finding they have to adapt to the changing workforce.

Sue Habig is with Kimball Electronics in Jasper, a contract electronics manufacturer.

"I had one millennial tell me a company means a military unit, and just seems harsh right away," said Habig. 

That means there is a premium on flexibility in today's workplace.

Work-life balance is important in hiring and retaining good workers.

Katie Burnett is with Deaconess Health System.

"We have to be flexible. That's what they want, and they are going to stay with us if we are able to speak to the needs they have for the lifestyle they want," said Burnett. 

But companies can only stretch so far. Some things are non-negotiable, and they only add to the shrinking pool of applicants.

"It's still tough to find people because they bomb out on the drug screens. They bomb out on the background check, and if we do hire them we have a real strict absenteeism policy," said Jones. I'll give you a chance the very first time if you are a probationary employee, but don't come in and do it again because if you do you won't have a job."

Say no to drugs and yes to a strong work ethic, and you'll make yourself an attractive applicant.

"For me it's the soft skills. We can fill our positions pretty easily, but we are taking care of people," said Burnett. "We have to be compassionate and know how to speak to people, show up on time, show up when you're supposed to be there. Those are the things that we struggle with."

Finally there is a role for parents and educators to guide young people in to a career pathway.

Boot camps are already available for teachers at many businesses. Our panel would like to see boot camps for parents too. 

"That is the million dollar question right now. How do we get the parents involved, early on to not just say I'm demanding you're going to go to college. That's the direction," said Habig. 

College is still one pathway to career success, but it is certainly not the only one.

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