MORTON – There was a barbecue at Morton Industries last month. It was not a corporate picnic. It was open to the public.
Hamburgers, hot dogs and jobs were on the menu at what was called a “Career Cookout”.
With more than 80 vacancies to expand its workforce to 572 at two sites in Morton and a smaller one in Texas, Morton’s second largest employer behind Caterpillar Logistics has provided food for potential employees and their families.
Tours of Morton Industries’ Commerce Drive plant, which has 380,000 square feet of manufacturing space, and informal conversations about employment opportunities accompanied the dinner.
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“Who doesn’t like a barbecue? Said Troy Deiss, director of human resources at Morton Industries, who came up with the idea of Career Cookout as an opportunity to talk about salaries, benefits and the atmosphere there.
“We wanted our guests to see that we have a clean, well-lit factory. To learn, as we say, ‘why we are different,’” Deiss said. “Some people think manufacturing is dark and dirty and not for them. That is not always the case.”
Recruitment takes traditional and non-traditional forms
The barbecue was one of the many creative steps Morton Industries took to fill its vacancies, caused, according to Deiss, by increased orders after the economy slowed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Founded in 1946, Morton Industries specializes in the manufacture of tubes and sheets.
Radio ads, billboards, a drive-thru job fair, and Deiss hitting the road to speak at high schools and Illinois Central College were among the company’s other recruiting tools.
The same goes for government departments and non-profit organizations. This effort led to the hiring of Chuck Folger at Morton Industries.
Folger is a resident at Adult & Teen Challenge Illinois in Beijing, which offers a 12-month, faith-based residential addiction recovery program for men.
Folger has been with Morton Industries since the spring. Adult & Teen Challenge provides transportation to and from work.
“Chuck is a great guy and he’s become a great welder,” said Steve Stewart, director of organizational development for Morton Industries.
“He didn’t know how to weld when he started here, but he wanted to learn, so we put him in our welding training center (in Morton), and now he operates a robot welder.”
Find a “good lasting job”
Folger said he enjoyed his job at Morton Industries. Working there means more than a salary for him.
“People at work are very caring and accommodating to my situation,” he said. “But I must clarify that nothing like this would have happened to me without accepting Jesus Christ in my life.”
Joe Rogers couldn’t be happier with Folger’s job at Morton Industries.
Rogers is director of operations for the Adult & Teen Challenge Illinois men’s division, which moved to Beijing in 2019 after 19 years in South Peoria.
“One of our goals is for each of our residents to find good, lasting employment,” said Rogers.
“In the case of Chuck he was added to the workforce of Morton Industries, the community now has another consumer and taxpayer, Chuck can show others who have had addiction issues how to lead a life productive, and he can be a better father. “
Rogers said Folger was homeless when he came to the Adult and Youth Challenge on the recommendation of his parole officer.
Folger now has a job, his GED, has graduated from the Adult & Teen Challenge program, is working there as an intern, and plans to attend Illinois Central College to get the education he needs to become a social worker, Rogers said.
Competition and demand play roles
Deiss said the labor shortage at Morton Industries was caused by a perfect storm of factors.
“People stay home because they get the weekly federal unemployment bonus of $ 300 (scheduled to end September 6), or they decide to try other areas with all the job openings in all. sectors of the region, “he said. .
“More specifically in the manufacturing sector, businesses in our region are looking for the same people. We take people from each other.
“Then there’s Rivian, the shiny new toy that offers competitive salaries and benefits. We’ve lost over 20 skilled people to Rivian,” Deiss said.
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Rivian is an electric vehicle maker that began production in June at a converted Mitsubishi plant in Normal that closed six years ago and is expected to have 2,500 employees by the end of the year.
Many other factors causing the labor shortage
Chris Setti, executive director of the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, cited a number of reasons when asked to explain the labor shortage in the region.
“It’s complicated,” he said, before highlighting several factors that he says have played a role in the shortage in recent months.
“The additional federal unemployment benefit, people who find different ways to make a living, lack of certification for certain jobs, lack of adequate transportation to get to work, the cost of childcare, less activities for kids to do this summer, kids in distance learning … “he said.
Setti said he was impressed with companies in the area like Morton Industries who have done creative recruiting.
“I’ve seen billboards, radio ads, billboards, Facebook posts, login bonuses, you name it,” he said.
Recruitment successful, but there are still vacancies
For Morton Industries, the sales pitch also included reminders of development opportunities.
“Sixty percent of our new employees are promoted within the first two months. Seventy-five percent of our management team started here in an entry-level position, ”said Deiss.
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He called the barbecue a success.
Thirty-five guests asked to be contacted and 12 had accepted jobs at the end of last month. Additional job interviews have been scheduled. And the company is always looking for more candidates.
Steve Stein can be contacted at (248) 224-2616 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @SpatanSteve.