WALLINGFORD — In an effort to help local manufacturing companies bolster their ranks with top notch job applicants, the Quinnipiac Chamber of Commerce did something decidedly old fashioned in our digital world: they put them together in the same room.
The chamber held a manufacturing career fair at the Toyota Oakdale Theatre Saturday morning. Almost 200 job seekers networked with 20 local manufacturing firms seeking qualified job candidates, something that the companies are saying is a rarity in Connecticut. The chamber also offered talks on interviewing best practices.
“It is a well known fact that manufacturers need viable employees. It’s an issue,” said Dee Nesti, executive director of the Quinnipiac Chamber of Commerce. “We’ve worked very hard to fill this event because we need to help manufacturers fill those jobs.”
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in the state of Connecticut as of August is very slightly higher than the national average – 4.3 percent in Connecticut as opposed to 3.9 percent nationwide, according to Connecticut Department of Labor statistics.
However, those numbers don’t address the direct concerns of the manufacturing community. Technological advances are outpacing the ability of educational institutions to train qualified candidates. That combined with a misperception of manufacturing as dark and dirty work, Nesti said, has led to the need.
Peter Raymo, programs coordinator for training and business services at the Connecticut Department of Labor, believes that the continued emphasis on STEM – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – will go a long way towards helping to shore up this part of the workforce.
“We are trying to get a match between job seekers and job providers,” Raymo said. “We want to find out what skills the employer needs and develop a work force along those lines.”
The state is working to help that process along, said Larry Satchell, who works in the Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship Training. There are wage subsidies available to businesses to find apprentices and offer them training and schooling as part of their career development, he said.
“We are trying to push employers to have an extra incentive to find these candidates,” Satchell said.
With punctuality, the ability to learn, and hard work being the primary criteria for many entry level manufacturing jobs, there are many opportunity for people to find themselves with well-paying jobs with opportunity for advancement, Satchell said.
The firms present at the job fair touted just that.
“I would say that everyone in this room is in the $15 to $25 per hour range,” said Chris Ulbrich, president and CEO of Wallingford-based Ulbrich Stainless Steel.
Ulbrich sought six new workers. He also anticipated that the addition of new rolling mill equipment would cause a need for another 15 workers over the next couple of years.
“When you work at a big company, this is what you do,” Ulbrich said, holding his hands together closely. “When you work for one of these companies, this is what you do,” he said, holding his hands far apart. “There is a better quality of life with the companies represented here.”
Carol Kennedy, senior manager of human resources at Medtronic, a medical supply manufacturing company located in New Haven, said that hourly wages at Medtronic are around $17 per hour, she said, and a salaried employee could make approximately $50,000 to $60,000 per year.
Asi Carmeli, director of human resources at Hobson Motzer, a Durham-based precision stamping and assembly company, hasn’t had difficulty finding entry level employees. More skilled positions tend to be more difficult to fill. Events like the Chamber’s job fair help.
“Call me old fashioned but I believe that this is the way to talk to local talent,” he said.
The nexus of firms hiring doesn't make it any less difficult for the people passing out their resumes and filling out applications.
Alex, a job seeker from Fairfield County who declined to give his full name because he is currently employed, believed that he made some good connections at the job fair. His specialty is supply chain and operations management and applying to positions online just doesn’t seem to be getting him anywhere.
“I am browsing to see what kind of opportunities are available. This feels more like a networking event. I’ve met a lot of great people so far,” he said.
Sponsors for the event included the Connecticut Department of Labor, Newtown Savings Bank, Holo-Krome, Pequot Health Care, the American Job Center, the Hartford Business Journal and the Record-Journal.