Lenawee County employers get creative with hiring as wages rise


More workers are looking for jobs these days and hourly wages are rising as prices for everything from gas to groceries have risen and labor shortages continue.

Average salaries by industry, from entry level to management positions, increased from 2019 to 2022. For example, in manufacturing, there was a 15% increase; in retail, an increase of 8%; and in health care, a 19% increase, according to Michigan Works Southeast.

According to economic research website FRED, in June 2022 Michigan’s inflation rate was 5.3%. It has not been this high since May 2008.

That said, there is still a labor shortage in all categories, from restaurants to manufacturing, and employers are getting creative when considering talent acquisition and retention.

Jack Plate, owner of Ross Design & Engineering in Cement City, has bent over backwards, his employees say, to ensure they move forward and maintain a strong work-life balance.

The company manufactures, among other things, pallet truck frames and pallet truck parts for the German company Kion and Toyota Material Handling. Ross has three facilities in Lenawee and Hillsdale counties and 95 workers. Ross recently landed a big contract and will increase his squad by 10% before January.

Ask Plate if there’s a labor shortage, and he replies, “Absolutely. We cannot fill all of our jobs.

His daughter and company vice president, Lindsay Hudson, with help from Michigan Economic Development Corp., as well as Lenawee Now and Hillsdale Economic Development Corp., is currently writing training grants. Even before receiving subsidies, the company held extensive training for workers, Plate said.

Plate is now working with the Township of Woodstock on zoning to set up a daycare center for its workers’ children. Her sister will take care of the daycare which will be open from 6 or 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Chris Mayhew, a welder for the company, knows firsthand how much the family business cares about its employees and their families.

When Mayhew was going through a messy custody battle over his children and struggling to come and go to work because he had lost his license due to two convictions for driving under the influence, Mayhew said, Hudson went to court with him to speak on his behalf so many times he doesn’t know how to count.

When he was kicked out, Ross paid the bill for a six-week stay at a motel and then bought him a house. The plan is for him to buy it under contract. Ross also paid employees to drive him to and from work.

When it became difficult to find rides for Mayhew and her children to get to doctor’s appointments and groceries, they hired Mayhew’s sister, Elizabeth, of Rima Manufacturing Co. in Hudson, a matched his salary and gave him the choice. she wanted to do.

Chris Mayhew and his sister Elizabeth are pictured outside Ross Design & Engineering in Cement City.  When Chris struggled to find rides for him and his kids to get to doctor's appointments and groceries, the company hired Elizabeth, matched her former employer's salary, and gave her choosing what she wanted to do.

When her special-needs daughter Opal, 4, started kindergarten, single mother Elizabeth struggled to drop her off in the morning. The company therefore let her in a little later in the morning. Elizabeth; Opal; Chris; and her children, Jaylynn, 14, Mataleeah, 9, and fraternal twins, Bryer and Brailina, 8, are happy, healthy and with their needs met.

“We’re all talking about how I’m going to get a life sentence here,” Chris said. “…They bent over backwards, that’s for sure. I try to be a good worker, but after doing so much I know I’m not that good. I really try very hard for them. I certainly don’t say “no” to them. »

Plate said it was part of how he was raised by his father, who also owned a business.

Chris Mayhew welds at work at Ross Design & Engineering in Cement City while his daughter Jaylynn looks on in this undated photo.

“We just try to be accommodating to people trying to start a family because my dad always said a guy doesn’t come to work to stay behind. So I just try to work with them and it seems, for the vast majority of the time, to work,” Plate said.

Michael Ayre, chief human resources officer of Wacker Chemical Corp. to Adrian said the company works with Michigan Works Southeast and has done things like set up a booth at the Lenawee County Fair and travel to schools to recruit kids as they graduate. start at ground level and work your way up.

Where before COVID-19 the company could advertise in the newspaper for a job and get over 100 resumes, now it only gets about five to six responses.

“Our message to them (potential workers) is that if you’re looking for a job, there are plenty. If you are looking for a career, Wacker is a great place to get your foot in the door, take advantage of tuition reimbursement, and have the opportunity to move from an operator role to different departments or different positions in the company,” Ayre said. . “If we find someone who has energy, passion and previous experience that we can draw on, we would love to have them on board. We talk about the job opportunities that are available if they are interested.

Wages are the first thing employers consider, but they also agree to flexible hours among other techniques to keep workers out and staying.

“Part of that is recruiting and retaining employees. I’ve heard that some manufacturing plants have started implementing what they call “phased change”. I think it starts at 8:30 or 9:00 and goes down around 2:30. So a parent has time to put their kids on the bus in the morning and is there to pick the kids up from the bus when they get home in the afternoon,” Robinson said.

Michigan Works Southeast assistant manager Misty Shulters said their service centers have recently seen a growth in foot traffic.

The agency offers training in writing resumes and posting profiles on Indeed and other job search engines, as well as job-specific training.

“Here, over the past few months, we have started to see an increase in traffic within our service centers. Individuals come and learn about the job market and job opportunities, whether it’s a new opportunity for them or potentially a job change,” Shulters said. “We are delighted with this because during the pandemic we have experienced an 85% reduction in our foot traffic. So when we start bringing our customers back to the service center, we’re really able to get them excited about the opportunities that are available to them right now, because this is a job seekers market. use. »


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