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October 4th, 2011
Here are four very bad words you hear a lot these days:
There. Are. No. Jobs.
But it turns out, that’s not entirely true. Yes, the manufacturing sector lost six million jobs last decade. But now, staffing agencies that place temporary workers in manufacturing say business is booming.
To see for yourself, just walk up to an employment agency like Staffing Inc. in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The first thing you’ll notice is an unusual sign on the door. It reads: “Now Hiring.” Then inside, you’ll hear this:
“You’ll be required to place the parts on a machine, press a button to activate the machine, and remove the parts to inspect them, okay?”
Tiffany Easlick is briefing a new hire, Katie Sherwood, on her new, temporary, post.
Sherwood is, “pretty excited.” She says it only took a couple weeks to find a job. She laughs, signs some paperwork, and asks about safety glasses.
Sherwood’s little giggle is a far cry from the steady drumbeat of dire job numbers we’ve all
heard. Shannon Burkel is Vice President of Sales for Staffing Inc.. From her perspective:
“There are tons of jobs!”
Burkel says the business of matching temps with West Michigan manufacturers is better now than it’s been for the last ten years. Even better than before the economic crisis.
“We are a leading indicator,” she says. “The first to fall and the first to climb out.”
Same goes for Stacey Bigelow’s firm on the other side of the state.
“We’ve doubled our staff in the last year. I mean it’s nuts,” Bigelow says, “but it’s taking longer to find people. You know, our job boards are full. Every day, they’re full.”
Bigelow says her company, Advance Staffing Solutions, is on track to have its biggest year ever. So what’s going on here?
Temporary factory workers are nothing new. However, the current demand for temps is partly the result of massive layoffs during the economic crisis. Some manufacturers cut deeply into their core staffs, so deeply that as hiring resumes, they’re really starting from the ground up. Shannon Burkel says a lot of companies are now building up a buffer of temporary workers.
“The hopes are, with little bumps in the economy, they never have to reach into their core
staff again. And go through that financial and emotional pain that they had to,” she says.
Plus a lot of companies are just skittish about making permanent hires while the economy
is so uncertain. They want to see demonstrated skills and they want to know the work will last. Burkel says that cautiousness is turning trial-for-hire into THE route to a permanent manufacturing job.
Sure, some companies may treat temps like commodities. But already this year, about 400 of Burkel’s temporary workers have been hired permanently by companies like Beverlin Manufacturing in Grand Rapids.
Rick Watson is the company’s president; his business makes perforated tubing and other
sheet metal fabrications. Watson always tries out potential hires as temps first. He says it’s the best way to ensure a good marriage and avoid liabilities.
“A lot of companies are hiring all their prospective employees through temp agencies,” he
says. “Not just what used to be blue collar. Now it’s technical people, it’s professional
people, the full gamut of people.”
Finding that full gamut of employees is the real challenge. Staffing professionals say there just aren’t enough people coming through the door with up-to-date technical skills. Not enough experienced welders, not enough high end machine operators and repairmen. Bigelow says she doesn’t care what the unemployment numbers say. There’s a labor shortage.
“I think we’ve been pushing our kids to go to college for so many years that they’re not
in these apprenticeship programs or any of these trades,” she says. “So these people are very hard to find.”
That’s a sentiment echoed by manufacturers across the region, and it’s a problem that
may persist even if job opportunities continue to rise.
Pete Bigelow · Midwest Memo: Ford Reaches Agreement With UAW, Wisconsin Aims to be Energy Industry Leader, Coal at Crossroads
October 4th, 2011
Three stories making news across the Midwest today:
1. UAW and Ford reach tentative deal. The United Auto Workers union has reached a tentative agreement with Ford Motor Co., announced Tuesday, that calls for $6,000 in signing bonuses and the creation of 5,750 new jobs at plants in the United States. Workers could vote on the agreement by the end of the week. “The American auto industry is on its way back,” UAW President Bob King said in a statement, adding the jobs will be added by the end of 2012. Crucial to the deal was consensus on entry-level wages of approximately $17 per hour. The tentative agreement means that Chrysler is the only automaker of the Big Three without a deal.
2. Coal at a crossroads. Coal produces nearly half the electricity used in the United States, but benefits associated with coal are outweighed by pollution and health problems that cause more economic harm than good, according to a recent study from the American Economic Review. Our partner station Ideastream begins a multi-part series today examining the economic impact of coal and its future in the Midwest. First up in the series: the natural gas boom has given coal added competition. Coal’s share of the nation’s electricity production was at its lowest level in more than 30 years through the first quarter of 2011.
3. Wisconsin announces microgrid project. On Monday, Wisconsin officials announced a new project that aims to make the state a national center for energy microgrids, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. By using energy storage devices and battery systems, microgrid “energy islands” maximize the use of energy from renewable sources, according to the newspaper, and could help if main power grids are disrupted. Several Milwaukee-area companies and the state’s four largest engineering schools are among the participants in the project.
October 3rd, 2011
The Midwest carried President Barack Obama to the White House in 2008. But when it comes to his re-election prospects in 2012, there are signs the president may have a more arduous task across the region.
Thirteen months away from the next presidential election, the president’s approval ratings have sunk. In Michigan, 65 percent of likely voters disapprove of the job he’s done. In Wisconsin, 51 percent disapprove. In Ohio, his 42 percent approval rating is the lowest of his tenure thus far.
In Pennsylvania, 54 percent of voters disapprove of his job. And in Indiana, which went for a Democrat in 2008 for the first time since 1964, Obama’s disapproval rating has ratcheted up to 60 percent. In 2010, Republican governors were elected in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio.
Far from the hope of sweeping the region again, even safe Democratic strongholds now appear in play. His approval rating in Minnesota hovers just above 50 percent. Perhaps most ominously, voters in Obama’s home state of Illinois gave his former Senate seat to Republican Mark Kirk last year.
“So go the Great Lakes, so goes the country,” writes Brett M. Decker in The Washington Times today. “That’s bad news for Barack.”
One reason Midwestern voters are turning against Obama? Of the eight Midwestern states he won – comprising every state in the region – all eight have seen an increase in their unemployment rates since his election. Below is a state-by-state glance at unemployment rates from the time of the ’08 elections compared to those rates today. Numbers come courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
November 2008: 7.2 percent
August 2011: 9.9 percent
November 2008: 7.5 percent
August 2011: 8.7 percent
November 2008: 4.8 percent
August 2011: 6.1 percent
November 2008: 9.9 percent
August 2011: 11.2 percent
November 2008: 6.3 percent
August 2011: 7.2 percent
November 2008: 7.6 percent
August 2011: 9.1 percent
November 2008: 6.2 percent
August 2011: 8.2 percent
November 2008: 5.9 percent
August 2011: 7.9 percent
Posted in ArtsBenefitBikesBizTechCivic AffairsCultureEducationEntrepreneurialismEventsFestivalFreeGreenHelpHistoryHotMusic: PopularNewNewsOutdoorsPerformancePoliticsSarah ValekShopLOCALTechnologyWorkshop[ October 6, 2011; 8:00 pm; ] OccupyCleveland Thu 10/6 @ noon by the Free Stamp "Now is the winter of our discontent ." -- William Shakespeare Will you be able to say, years from now, that you were there... at the beginning? At the beginning of the awakening of America’s conscience? At the beginning of the peaceful revolution when it finally took root in [...]
Pete Bigelow · Midwest Memo: UAW Nears Deal With Ford, Chicago Mayor Hosts Aviation Summit, Midwest Native Wins Nobel Prize
October 3rd, 2011
Three stories making news across the Midwest today:
1. UAW nears Ford deal. Local leaders in the United Auto Workers union have been called to Detroit for a Tuesday meeting, a “strong sign” that a contract has been reached with Ford Motor Co., according to the Associated Press. A UAW spokesperson said Monday that no deal has been finalized, although the union is hoping it will have one to present at tomorrow’s meeting. The four-year deal is expected to be more lucrative than the one UAW workers reached with General Motors last week, and include profit sharing instead of annual wage increases.
2. Emanuel hosts airline leaders. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will hold a summit today with airline executives. He will discuss what kinds of improvements they’d like to see in Chicago’s workforce and infrastructure to maintain the city’s status as a transportation leader. United Air Lines and Boeing are based in Chicago, and American Airlines uses O’Hare as one of its major hubs. “I do not want to just sit on that lead. I want to build it,” Emanuel said last week. The CEOs of United, American, Boeing and electronic-booking agent Orbitz, as well as government officals, are expected to be in attendance.
3. Chicago native wins Nobel Prize. Bruce A. Beutler, a genetics professor born and educated in Chicago, is one of three winners of the Nobel Prize for Medicine. The prizes were announced Monday. Buetler was born in Chicago and earned his medical degree from the University of Chicago in 1981. He currently works at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif, where officials credit his groundbreaking work in immunology for the prize. “I awoke in the night, looked at my cell phone and saw that I had a message that said, ‘Nobel Prize,’” Beutler told the San Diego Union-Tribune.