SWMI labor market still short 4,000 workers

NOW: SWMI labor market still short 4,000 workers

BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. -- The Southwest Michigan labor market continues to struggle bouncing back.

4,200 people remain out of the work force in Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties.

“A lot of retirements, a lot of folks leaving the workplace, we’ve got families thinking they can get by with only one income, there’s still the fear of COVID,” said Al Pscholka, Vice President of Public Relations and Government Affairs at Kinexus Group.

Kinexus Group is tracking the trends each month and while June showed some promise, there wasn’t really much improvement in July. 

The unemployment rate remained at 5.7 percent, which is really being felt in the hospitality industry, especially as seasonal employment winds down and students head back to school. 

“We’ve seen a lot of our restaurants struggling, folks have to be patient and a lot of people are leaving that industry,” said Pscholka. “The big thing is how do you build the whole ecosystem where you’re attractive to younger people and we’re going to have to do a better job with business education partnerships, working with schools and showing them there are really great jobs right here.” 

The past year brought more product demand for chemical company CHT in Cassopolis, but they haven’t built back up the labor force to match it.

“We have to be willing to be flexible, to train and to look beyond a resume and if the individual is ready to work then we’ll give it a try,” said Melanie Hunsberger, Employee Engagement Coordinator.

Ready to work is the key – and they’re prepared to meet enthusiastic employees where they are. 

“We hired a gentlemen who worked in construction and had a lot of transferable skills which translated with our team, he didn’t want seasonal work and we brought that stability,” said Hunsberger.

CHT is primarily looking for utility operators who will assist the chemical operators at their Cassopolis plant.

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