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PROGRESS 2020: Area employers try unconventional methods to recruit talent Up North

News Photo by Crystal Nelson Carrie Burr, assistant branch manager with Northland Area Federal Credit Union, works in the credit union’s temporary lending office in Alpena.

ALPENA — While Northeast Michigan offers a good quality of life for area residents, businesses often struggle to recruit the professionals they need to fill positions in our rural region.

To overcome the gap, employers boost traditional incentives such as pay and benefits and try unconventional methods such as helping hires’ spouses find work and contractors.

Tom Moran, CEO and founder of Moran Ironworks in Onaway, said business in the manufacturing sector is booming, but it’s difficult to find people to fill the 12 to 20 needed positions at his business.

Moran said the positions range from sweeping floors to doing machine work to welding. He said that, while unemployment is at an all-time high because of the coronavirus pandemic, a lot of people are not motivated to come to work.

Moran said the business has taken on more and more work from clients and he’s had to subcontract work out to other laborers to get the jobs done.

“The four guys we have now are from a downstate fabricating company, but we also are contracting retired people — truck drivers, equipment operators, people that will run errands — we are using almost every trick in the book,” he said.

MidMichigan Medical Center-Alpena President Chuck Sherwin said the hospital is able to hire a lot of its nursing staff from Alpena Community College and tries to hire professionals who are from small towns who may be more likely to feel comfortable in northern Michigan.

“As we find people that have come from smaller communities, we have a much higher rate of keeping them here, getting them employed, and them having a successful career,” he said.

Sherwin said hospital leaders not only have to consider whether a prospective employee can thrive in Northeast Michigan, but whether their spouse may also be looking for employment in the community.

“Many times, (spouses are) not in health care, they’re in another field,” Sherwin said. “So, then, we go to work and use our communication channels to try to help and support and identify opportunities for that other person.”

Lappan Agency Vice President for Operations Lucianne King said the insurance agency doesn’t typically see a lot of turnover, but agency officials are working to fill a couple of positions. She said it’s a tough market and stressed that it’s important to find the right candidate for the job.

“If we get the right person, training is always available,” she said.

Northland Area Federal Credit Union Marketing Director Matt Duthler said sometimes finding skilled labor in smaller, more rural areas can be difficult. However, he said the company strives to be an employer of choice and offers incentives to prospective employees.

Duthler said the company will pay for a staff member’s education if they are looking to further their career. He said the credit union is also reviewing its pay structure to make sure compensation for its workers is competitive.

Alpena Community College President Don MacMaster said the college doesn’t usually have a hard time hiring employees.

He said college officials usually want to promote from within, but they really want the best, most capable, experienced, and energetic staff they can find, and, sometimes hiring from outside the college can introduce new experiences and ideas, which can be beneficial.

MacMaster said the college also offers programs that help train people for jobs that are needed in the community.

“There’s a high demand for trained people to be welders, machinists, and CNC operators — the demand exceeds the supply in that area, there’s no question,” he said. “Our role is to try and find folks and engage them into training that allows them to step into those positions.”

MacMaster said the college works with employers to try to increase the number of people who have the skills needed to fill those job vacancies.

“Young people are beginning to re-engage with trades and realize that they can have a great career and a lifestyle without a four-year degree — that they can get training and go into work and do jobs that they will enjoy doing and will be a career for a lifetime,” he said.

Crystal Nelson can be reached at 989-358-5687 or cnelson@thealpenanews.com.

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