The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, March 15, 2016 11:37 pm

70 employers look for skilled help at job fair

Brian Francisco | Washington editor

Job openings are said to be abundant in northeast Indiana. So are job hunters.

But job hunters who are qualified for the job openings? That's a different story.

"We all say the same thing. We all say we can't find the skilled help. We're no different," Mark Manning, human resources manager at C&A Tool, said Monday at IPFW's Walb Student Union.

C&A Tool was among more than 70 employers that set up tables at the yearly job fair sponsored by U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman and IPFW. The Churubusco-based machining company is looking for people with training and experience in operating lathes, mills and grinders and certain other tasks.

"Everybody's looking for the same people" in manufacturing, Manning said. "We're wanting them. The Columbia City plants are wanting them, the Fort Wayne plants, the Warsaw plants, the Auburn plants.

"We don't necessarily say we have 70 openings and here they are. If we had 70 qualified people in these areas, we could hire them, because we have that need, have that demand," Manning said.

C&A Tool, which employs nearly 600 people, pays between $12 and $25 an hour.

Stutzman, R-3rd, said employers that participated in the job fair have more than 2,500 job openings. His office said later the fair attracted more than 700 job seekers.

"It's a good problem to have," said Stutzman, who seeks to switch jobs by running for a seat in the U.S. Senate. "It shows you the economy here in Indiana is doing much better than it is in other parts of the country."

Indiana's unemployment rate dropped below 5 percent this summer. Although the state's income growth has been sluggish – a 2.14 percent increase last year – Stutzman said he is not in favor of raising the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

"I think we're seeing wages go up without that mandated requirement," he said, noting that such large companies as Walmart and McDonald's have announced wage increases.

Employers "are going to have to increase wages to get the employees that they need," Stutzman said.

Shindigz, a South Whitley party supplies company, recently reviewed its pay structure but did not raise its base wages, said human resource director Kris Gilman. Shindigz workers start at $9 an hour.

Gilman said Shindigz has about 60 seasonal openings in production and customer service and will have a "hiring party" for applicants today. A couple of hours into Monday's job fair, she said the company's booth had not attracted as many applicants as she would have liked.

"Look at how many employers are here today that are recruiting. Everybody is in the same boat," Gilman said about the many for-profit, nonprofit and government employers.

Katelyn Heavener of Verizon Wireless said her company was searching for sales and customer service workers. The pay starts at $12 an hour, plus commission.

"I have talked to several applicants so far. It's definitely been well worth the trip into the career fair today," Heavener said shortly after chatting with Stutzman, who was touring booths after a news conference.

Some of the participating employers were showing videos to prospects and handing out brochures, pens and pencils, even candy and chocolate bars.

Sara Danielian, 22, a recent graduate of IPFW, said she was "looking for whatever I can find" in her career choice. She said her problem was finding openings at the job fair related to her studies in media and public communications.

Rochelle Jamieson, 49, said she is "kind of a jack of all trades" after having worked for a Columbia City manufacturer and three physicians' offices.

"I'm recently unemployed, and I need employment," Jamieson said upon arriving at the job fair. "I'm hoping to find something today."

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