Fort Wayne executive Nick Viggiano has learned to make lemonade out of lemons when it comes to recruiting employees.
On one hand, he'd love every new hire to hit the ground running. On the other hand, there are some benefits to bringing along a novice.
“I'd say 80 percent of the people we hire don't have experience on machines,” said Viggiano, chief operating officer of Continental Diamond Tool in New Haven.
“Finding qualified applicants is hard, but the bright side is someone with little or no experience is easier to train because you don't have to worry about habits they may have picked up. Sometimes workers feel their way of doing something is right because they've done it their entire life.”
Viggiano's position jibes with a Ball State University report released last week that says Indiana's economic future could hinge on how the state educates its workforce to take advantage of opportunities in fast-growing sectors.
The college's Center for Business and Economic Research conducted the study for the Indiana Economic Development Corp. The center will release more in-depth reports about economic issues affecting Hoosiers in coming months.
Advanced manufacturing, biosciences, emerging media and information technology, and logistics were segments examined in the report, “Key Economic Sectors in Indiana: State Overview.”
Michael Hicks, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research, said Indiana is an attractive location for investment. In the past, he's cited the state's right-to-work status, regional proximity and affordability.
Those things mean nothing, however, if the state fails to be creative in drawing investors.
“Though still part of the economic development puzzle, traditional business attraction must give way to a more robust focus on attracting residents and boosting the educational and workforce readiness of the state,” he stated. “This study clearly points out that reality, while offering a focus for traditional economic development efforts.”
Indiana can't be content with the status quo because Hicks said his data tell him that current economic development efforts of drawing business aren't sustainable.
Information of that sort concerns Viggiano as he continues to invest in northeast Indiana. Last month, Continental – which employs 57, designs and makes diamond cutting and grinding products for the medical, oil and gas, automotive, aerospace and electronics industries – announced a more than $3.3 million expansion.
Starting pay at the company is $12 to $16 an hour.
Northeast Indiana Works oversees 11 WorkOne career centers in the region. Spokesman Rick Farrant doesn't deny that having candidates with specific skill sets is crucial to attracting companies, but there are other factors.
“We hear a lot of employers hiring for soft skills and making sure a person is the right culture fit, the thought being they can be trained later,” Farrant said. “There are qualified people out there, though, so I would say we're doing pretty well.”