Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Low unemployment, aging workers force rural Minn. businesses to get creative to fill positions

Low unemployment rates and a rising age of workers nearing retirement is leading Minnesota's rural businesses—especially manufacturing—to take drastic measures to hire and retain workers, Dee DePass reports for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Katie Clark Sieben, commissioner of the state Department of Employment and Economic Development, said "25 percent of manufacturing jobs in Minnesota are held by people over age 55." She said in 10 years the state will have nearly 53,000 openings for production jobs. She told DePass, “Filling these jobs will be a challenge for manufacturers.” (Tribune photo by Elizabeth Flores: Matt Wille of Alexandria Industries)

So, businesses are getting creative, DePass writes. "With operations in the western Minnesota cities of Morris and Hancock, Superior Industries recently bought a $300,000 apartment building and now spends another $250,000 a year on housing and plane tickets so 40 to 47 workers can migrate from Mexico to work at its concrete plant seven months each year. In central Minnesota, Alexandria Industries’ business grew 20 percent last year at the same time that 26 percent of its workforce neared retirement age. So the company scrambled to add 60 workers and is now converting part of a strip shopping mall into a $300,000 employee health clinic one block from its aluminum extrusion plant. It is also paying workers’ tuition for degrees in engineering and machine tooling and automation."

"These days, manufacturers say the name of the game is creativity as desperate factories around the state are trying to combat Minnesota’s worker shortage problem," DePass writes. "With state unemployment at 3.7 percent (and with some towns closer to zero), manufacturers are aggressively opening purses to boost staff retention and help recruitment get a little easier. Running job fairs, ads, partnering with technical colleges and raising average wages to $61,000 a year haven’t been enough to feed the swelling demand for workers at bustling factories in outstate Minnesota. DEED reports that the state’s manufacturing wages are now $10,000 to $15,000 higher than wages in most other industries."  (Read more)

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