BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - An industry in Southwest Michigan is ready to hire employees but is having trouble finding qualified employees.
The Berrien Tooling Coalition met Tuesday morning for a roundtable meeting at Lake Michigan College’s M-Tech facility on Klock Road in Benton Harbor.
When asked, representatives from 18 of the 20 companies attending agreed that finding skilled workers is a problem. “Between the people in that room I bet we’d hire another 80 kids in the next three months,” said Mike Levi, Chief Financial Officer for Eagle Technologies in Bridgman.
Eagle Technologies builds manufacturing machines. Levi said the company just hired six employees and would hire six more immediately if those people were available. “There’s a definite shortage of talent,” he said.
The Berrien Tooling Coalition began meeting during the recession in 2008 when ‘tool and dye’ businesses were laying off employees. Now, with a rebounding economy, the coalition meets with representatives from LMC to properly train a workforce that is desperately needed.
“I’ve already got like three job offers,” said Tammy Calaberese, a manufacturing student at LMC who still has a year left in college. Calaberese was laid off from her previous machining job and feels the demand for her advanced manufacturing training.
Levi said there aren’t enough people interested in manufacturing. “(Local manufacturers) would hire 50 to 80 more people right now but there aren’t 50 to 80 in that classroom.”
Levi said a new generation of prospective employees aren’t exposed to manufacturing with shop classes in high school and get negative feedback from their parents. “Mom and Dad are encouraging their kids not to be a part of manufacturing,” he said.
The Berrien Tooling Coalition now discusses ways to recruit young people into the industry. Levi said part of the strategy is showing them that new-age manufacturing is computer based and no longer is the dirty job it once was.