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Waupaca Foundry

Global MFG - Jun 4, 2021

Where have all the workers gone?

Eric Whittaker | Perry County News

National reports on staffing shortages are not exaggerated as Perry County businesses are feeling effects of the void left by former employees not returning to work.

“Everyone is short across the board,” said Perry County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Wendi Rich.

Perry County manufacturing, education, social services, financing, health care and service industry are all reporting staffing shortages.

“Life has changed,” said Erin Emerson, Perry County Development Corporation executive director, adding that people’s lives change after having a year or more off of work.

National reports show three main reasons people aren’t applying for positions, Rich said.

The first, which receives the most national recognition, is the unemployment stimulus money.

“At one time people were making more money when the pandemic started,” Rich said, commenting that it made sense since last year everything was shut down and people had been laid off of work.

“With closed businesses, that was reasonable,” Rich continued, “But we’ve been open [as a state] for awhile.”

As previously reported in the Thursday, May 20, issue of the News, Governor Eric Holcomb announced Indiana would end its participation in all federally funded pandemic unemployment insurance programs June 19.

While ending benefits might bring more people back to work, there are other issues are preventing people from returning.

Rich said the second issue is people still being afraid. Some people are still worried they could catch the virus.

The third reason is a larger issue, with day care services around the nation full to capacity and waiting lists to accept new clients not shrinking.

“Many child care centers shut down during the pandemic,” Rich said. Fifty percent of the population are women, she said, with fewer than 100 day care positions in the county and with about 800 children needing day care, people are staying home with their children.

“People are practicing different ways of caring for children and older adults,” Emerson said.


A turn to a smaller workforce has created a more competitive market, Emerson said.

“Not a week goes by without industries contacting me with needs across the state for niche positions,” Emerson said. “It’s an employees market. … The need for entry level positions has already been there. Now we’re seeing the need for skilled workers.”

Businesses are getting more competitive in recruiting, raising base wages and offering more incentives.

“We’re about 70 people short of about 960 employees,” said Waupaca Foundry Plant Manager Cody Dawson. “We have a need from basic labor to electrical. It’s had effects on production.”

According to Dawson, the shortage has caused line shutdowns, workers covering shifts, working harder and the company stretching thin its temporary worker pool.

“We’ve called people back to work who’ve quit, put ads all around areas within an hour drive and raised the starting wage,” Dawson said. “What we’re not seeing is many applications. Period.”

Some of Waupaca’s issue is with other large competitive industries around the region. Kentucky manufacturing is trying to attract employees through the staffing shortage, and no one is really winning.

“The big thing we’re pushing is no forced overtime,” Dawson was quick to say.

Some companies, he said, will have people work beyond their regular shifts and come in on days off.

“Employees are never forced in on their day off,” Dawson said. “We don’t force over shifts. We run four on, two off.” He said employees will work four 12 hour shifts, then have two days off.

Waupaca has a pool of temporary workers, as well, which now numbers at about 200 who fill in where needed.

“It’s a comfortable number,” Dawson said. “Temporary workers are at about the same number as they’ve always been.”

Whether people return to work after the unemployment compensation ends remains to be seen.


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