Andy Knight, The Herald Bulletin
March 27, 2023
ANDERSON — Following the lead of many of their competitors across the state, local companies are responding to a pressing need for workers by diversifying their recruitment strategies and offering perks beyond increased hourly wages and benefits.
Still, several of them were forced to leave jobs open — at least temporarily — in 2022 because of a shortage of qualified applicants.
“We know that most of our companies are hiring,” said Rob Sparks, executive director of the Corporation for Economic Development in Madison County. “I see them in all kinds of different facets of trying to reach out to (prospective) employees. It’s not unusual to see $22 an hour jobs with benefits being advertised.”
The situation in Madison County isn’t much different from other areas of the state. According to the Indiana Chamber’s annual employer survey, 74% of businesses in the Hoosier state were compelled to leave jobs open at some point last year, the highest percentage in the survey’s 15-year history.
“Finding enough talent and the right talent continues to be a huge problem plaguing Indiana employers,” Jason Bearce, the Indiana Chamber’s vice president of education and workforce development, said in a news release. “The concern over talent by far trumps other concerns, including government regulations, inflation and supply chain challenges.”
In Madison County and elsewhere, initiatives to attract companies — and, officials hope, an expanded tax base — are taking into account the firms’ needs to get creative in their own efforts to bring talent on board and keep it.
“Several of our companies are networking and trying to build that workforce base earlier,” Sparks said. “Then they’re doing programs to attract older folks to come back into the workforce.
“I think a lot of companies are floating out there waiting to land,” he added. “They recognize that if they’re going to go into a market, they’ve got to be competitive.”
Often, that competition can begin in middle school or even earlier. Sparks noted that introducing potential career pathways in manufacturing and trade fields is becoming increasingly emphasized at ever-lower grade levels.
“We emphasize the school programs to show the pipeline of kids,” Sparks said. “Whether it’s (the) D26 (Career Center) or Hinds Career Center, what Purdue Polytechnic is doing, what Anderson University is doing with engineering students — we have a variety of marketing tools that we put out to show (companies) what’s going on and where they can jump into this workforce development strategy.”