Northeast Indiana: Hundreds Of Factory Jobs Go Unfilled

unfilled factory jobs northeast indiana

By Parija Kavilanz

NEW YORK -- Northeast Indiana has a peculiar problem.

There are hundreds of factory jobs ready for the taking as the area's manufacturing sector has come back to life after the recession. But even with an unemployment rate as high as the national average, companies are struggling to hire workers.

This situation is top of mind for Larry Davis, CEO of Daman Manifolds in Mishawaka. The company, which makes hydraulic valve manifolds, has 115 employees.

Industry demand has boosted Daman Manifolds' business significantly. "We need to hire 10 more workers in the next six months," Davis said.

His challenge: "I'll have to go through 500 applicants just to get the 10 that I need. And there's no guarantee that those 10 hires will work out.

The longer it takes him to hire new workers, the greater the risk Davis could start losing business.

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Daman Manifolds is not alone.

Northeast Indiana is a hotbed of manufacturing and a microcosm of a problem afflicting many employers in areas where American factories have been revived: There's a widening gulf between open jobs and qualified applicants to fill them.

Factories in northeast Indiana primarily support the medical device, aerospace, rail and defense industries, said Kris Deckard, executive director of "Ready Indiana," the workforce development initiative of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

The area -- 10 counties covering over 4,000 square miles -- has the country's highest concentration of manufacturing jobs, with 26 percent of the workforce employed in the industry.

But manufacturers are having a tough time boosting their workforces, Deckard said.

A labor shortage isn't the problem. Companies are getting hundreds of applicants, she said. But they are either not the right fit or unqualified.

"Applicants are failing drug tests," she said. "Some apply and then decide they want to wait until their unemployment benefit runs out before taking a factory job."

Then there are the candidates with four-year college degrees who can't find other work. Manufacturers shy away from hiring them, believing they'll leave as soon as they find a job that's a better fit.

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At Daman Manifolds, among hundreds of applications the company will review in coming weeks, half will likely get dumped because folks won't fill out the entire eight-page form, Davis said. Another big chunk won't make it past the phone interview.

Several more will fail the hands-on assessment because they lack the right skills.

"The No. 1 comment I'm hearing right now from manufacturers in northeast Indiana is that 5 percent to 10 percent of jobs are going unfilled because of lack of skilled workforce," said Matt Bell, president of Corporate College, a unit of Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, the nation's largest statewide community college system.

All 26 Ivy Tech campuses across the state teach certificate courses in manufacturing skills, such as computer-aided manufacturing, welding and tooling.

Bell estimates that the state needs about 40,000 to 50,000 manufacturing workers right now to meet the uptick in production.

Corporate College graduated about 25,000 students last year from its manufacturing and business courses.

Given Indiana's running shortage of skilled factory workers, Bell said manufacturers are importing workers from other states such as Ohio and Michigan.

At Fort Wayne Metals Research, business has also picked up. The company has added 200 workers over the past two years.

"Our forecast is to add another 100 workers this year, too," said Mark Michael, the company's president and chief operating officer.

But the hiring process is long and arduous.

"In May we accepted 129 applications and we screened those down to 40," said Michael. "We administered three industry tests to the 40 and four people passed."

All four were offered a job, and only one accepted, he said. "These statistics are not unusual at all among manufacturers here," he said.

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The part about skilled workers, A: They don't offer training ? How does one become skilled without the training. Something wrong with this article, 40 tested, 4 passed, what did they wast their money on in the so called school they paid for ?

August 10 2012 at 4:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sounds like this company needs to hire someone new to replace the guy doing the hiring, because this guy sounds like a real idiot.

August 08 2012 at 9:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

With the major cut coming in 2013 in the defense industry these people will have a place to look and finding new employment.

August 08 2012 at 9:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tom M.

Love this part:
"Applicants are failing drug tests," she said. "Some apply and then decide they want to wait until their unemployment benefit runs out before taking a factory job."

I guess this is part of the "working class" the politicians keep talking about. LOL.

August 08 2012 at 4:29 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

And during the first 3 yrs of the recession, maybe they should have throught twice before laying off that 50 plus yrs age group with the intellectual property of years under their belt go in the first place.

August 08 2012 at 4:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Thats hogwash!!! UI isn't a living wage and I doubt people would say something like that in an interview. Let me complete my unemployment benefits. Since the Recession in 2008 the majority unemployed are not even receiving benefits anymore for some time. I find it hard to believe ALL 600 applicants would state as such.

August 08 2012 at 4:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

One thing companies are NOT doing today that they have done in the past, before the recession, for decades is provide TRAINING for incoming workers. If they have a past in manufacturing or a trade that is similar, INVEST in the workers. It's called being brought on through an apprenticeship or internship for the first three months or so. You usually have a probation period so if they didn't work out you wouldn't have to pay UI. They also used to recruit out of appropriate manufacturing tech schools. The bridge is broken and no longer exists. Stop looking for Mr or Ms perfect. Instead of complaining, get the unemployed back working so we can RIGHT the economy to pre 2008 levels of employment.

August 08 2012 at 4:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to brittany2acres's comment

id guess by qualified they mean someone who wont sue them for disability or discrimination .

August 08 2012 at 4:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"Some apply and then decide they want to wait until their unemployment benefit runs out before taking a factory job."
That is where the problem lies. As an employer I experience the same, and so do many of the business owners I know. Applicants have even asked me to pay them under the table so they can work AND continue to collect unemployment ..
and we wonder why we're going broke?

August 08 2012 at 3:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Thats why if a person drawing unemployment turns down a job that pays at least what unemployment is giving then they should have their unemployment benefits revoked. And if there are any welfare,food stamp babies in the area they should be required to apply for open jobs and if theye fail their drug test then their welfare/food stamp hand out should be taken away. Make those who dont want to work get off their asses and go to work.

August 08 2012 at 3:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

They're only looking for 10 people... thousands of applicants, they can afford to be picky. BTW if you're unemployed and can't pass a drug test... thats's the companies fault? If you're one of the 10... CONGRATS!

August 08 2012 at 2:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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