Erie chamber hopes manufacturing job fair will lead to new hiring

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According to the State Department of Labor and Industry, approximately 18,400 people in Erie County earn their living in manufacturing.

But James Grunke, CEO of Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership, said the number could be much higher.

The challenge is that many of Erie County’s roughly 300 producers need to hire people, but can’t find them.

And the problem is widespread, said Jake Rouch, the House’s vice president of economic development, explaining that even Erie County’s largest industrial employer, Wabtec Corp., has more than 100 manufacturing jobs. .

Other companies with dozens of vacancies include JTM Foods LLC, the largest national snack pie manufacturer.

Moreover:Baked in Erie: The local business claims the largest slice of the national snack cake market

This job fair is a bit different from the others

Hosting job fairs isn’t usually part of the House playbook, but its leaders are making an exception.

On Thursday, the chamber and the Erie Regional Manufacturing Partnership will host the 2022 Manufacturing Career and Job Fair, 11am – 7pm, at the Zem Zem Shrine Club at 2525 West 38th St.

Local companies, including Wabtec, Plastek Group, Industrial Sales and Manufacturing and Eriez Manufacturing, will be on hand with the hope of finding new employees.

Grunke is optimistic about the potential for successful career matchmaking.

“If you want a job in the manufacturing sector, if you can show up on the 29th, you will connect or connect to a training program. We need people looking for work to come,” he said.

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Video 2018: Officials baptize a new locomotive at GE Transportation in Lawrence Park

Watch the video from 2018 when officials christened a new locomotive in what was then called GE Transportation and is now called Wabtec Corp., in Lawrence Park Township

Jim Martin, Erie Times-News

Rouch said it’s hard to say for sure the number of jobs open in the Erie County manufacturing sector. He estimates, however, that the roughly 300 producers in that county average at least three openings each. This math suggests that in the vicinity of 1,000 manufacturing jobs await the right candidate.

“It’s not like we’re down 2,000 jobs and there aren’t any job opportunities,” Rouch said. “Is the opposite.”

Grunke explains it this way: “There are (still) 22,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector, but there are only 19,000 people in them.”

Jim Rutkowski Jr., general manager of industrial sales and manufacturing at Millcreek Township, a contract manufacturer working for a large number of companies, said he was optimistic about the House effort.

According to the chamber, ISM has a dozen jobs to fill and could potentially add another shift if it finds enough people.

The hiring process has changed for Erie companies

“We are extremely confident it will help,” Rutkowski said. “In our case, things are improving a bit, but we’re trying so many ways to find people. It’s not like the old days when you put an ad in the newspaper or a sign in front of it and people would show up at your door.”

Moreover:Closure of labor shortages, Erie restaurants slow when business is booming

Rouch and Grunke see the job fair as only a first step towards what must be a sustained effort.

The chamber is also working to address a broader problem of providing both training and money to help train candidates interested in a manufacturing job, but not all of the right skills.

“You have to have the employers, you have to have the training providers, you have to have the talent pools, so you have the funding resources,” Rouch said.

The people who represent each of these things “have to go into a continuous dynamic dance,” he said.

In some cases, Rouch said, the high-demand environment could make it easier for candidates to find training.

“Most of our employers, if someone is ready to go to work and is committed, will find out how to pay for the training or start internal training,” Rouch said.

Jim Martin can be reached at [email protected]

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