Local labor leaders say there are plenty of jobs to fill in the area but not enough available workers willing and able to take those jobs, now and in the future.
And they say the problem will only get worse with the passage of the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and the many projects it will be funding.
Several major construction projects are underway in Richland County, from the U.S. 30 expansion to two new school buildings under construction in Lexington and Shelby.
The Shelby school district construction is for a new pre-K-8 building while Lexington Schools' is building a new grade 7-12 building. Both districts' new buildings are set to open this year.
With the new infrastructure bill set to fund roadways and bridges, these projects will need workers. Fifteen million jobs are estimated to be created nationwide over the next decade. Ohio's share of job growth is estimated to be over half a million jobs, according to Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.
But locally, companies are already struggling to find new employees.
MANCI hiring corrections officers
Carl VanBibber, president of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association MANCI Local 7010, said it has gotten worse trying to hire employees for MANCI in the last six months.
"We're short staffed," said VanBibber, who has worked at MANCI, the Mansfield Correctional Institution, for 28 years. "We've gotten people quitting, retiring. MANCI was one of the higher seniority institutions in the state but now everybody is starting to be that age of retirement.
He said MANCI Local 7010 members are down about 60 corrections officers and is allowed a total of 448 corrections officers.
"When you take 60 out and you've got your people who are off on disability and COVID, it adds up," VanBibber said.
"We're doing a lot of forced mandatory overtime because management, they're trying to hire people. But with the pandemic on top of it, (mandatory overtime) is the main way," he said.
"We're doing everything we can ... you still have to staff the place," he said.
"The other day they (management) had a posting on Facebook for open interviews. Our personnel director will come in on the weekends or evenings and interview people," VanBibber said. "We're taking walk-in interviews during the week. They're doing everything they can.
VanBibber, 56, said his wife also works at MANCI.
"It seems like the younger generation doesn't have the same work ethic. And younger employees don't stay."
Annette Chambers-Smith, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, recognizes the difficult jobs the agency's staff are tasked with each day, and those challenges have intensified as the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly every one of its facilities.
"Our staff continue to come to work each day and work towards a common goal of operating safe prisons as one team with one purpose," Chambers-Smith said in a statement.
"Like businesses across the country, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) is facing staffing challenges and has made hiring and recruitment efforts a priority. Several strategies have been implemented for mainstream recruitment, including the use of radio and billboard advertisements, the use of social media advertising, hiring events, recruitment with local schools and colleges, and virtual and on-site interviews. We are also in discussions with streaming radio services for advertising and recruitment," she added.
VanBibber said requirements to be hired as a corrections officer at MANCI are: Holding a high school diploma or GED (general equivalency diploma), a driver's license and passing a background check and drug test.
Steelworkers union touts reasons to work at ArcelorMittal
Norm Shoemaker, president of the Mid Ohio Labor Council, said ArcelorMittal Tubular-Shelby Division, in Shelby, needs to hire more than 30 employees.
Over the past year, Shoemaker said the company has posted job openings on Indeed.com, followed by yard signs in Shelby and now is advertising on radio.
"And they did an online video of employees," he added.
"They've hired over 100 new people with a net gain of 25 with retirements and people leaving to work elsewhere," Shoemaker said.
"Nationwide, jobs are going unfilled," Shoemaker said. "In our area very good jobs are not filled. This is a problem at a lot of local employers — good jobs unfilled."
Shoemaker said Shelby's ArcelorMittal posted its largest profit sharing ever last quarter, $4,381.71 (per person).
Shoemaker asked local labor leaders for their input during a recent meeting to get the word out to media and the public.
resident of the United Steelworkers Local #3057, said ArcelorMittal, known as Tuby, "is a place that has allowed thousands of employees to raise their families by providing good wages and benefits for over 130 years.
"Not only have the residents of Shelby benefited, but the residents of surrounding areas have also benefited," Gregory said. "Employees come to northern Ohio to call the Tuby their home. COVID-19 has hit everywhere. We are no different. Thirty employees are currently absent from work due to this pandemic," Gregory said.
"With the recent workforce shortage, there are many positions available for you to start your career in the steel tube making industry. From general production jobs to specialized maintenance, all are available. On-the-job training by qualified professionals is provided. We also offer an apprenticeship program that will train you in a specialized area in the maintenance field," he said.
USW Local 3057 has vigorously represented the hourly employees for over 75 years and will continue to do so for years to come, Gregory said.
Recently, ArcelorMittal Shelby and USW Local 3057 agreed to a new four-year contract.
"These improvements include increases to wages of over 3% per year, allowing members to choose the type of insurance coverage that fits their needs while lowering the cost, increasing the pension contribution to all members, five guaranteed weekends off to allow members to plan activities with their families, increased money to allow members to purchase protective clothing, and limiting mandatory overtime," Gregory said.
"This constitutes the best contract for members in several decades," he said. Many employees have worked at the plant for more than 40 years, he added.
The tubes made are used for automotive, manufacturing and oil production.
"The Build Back Better" bill in Congress, if passed, will allow the employees at the Tuby to build products for the American people for years to come," Gregory said. "And this will increase the job security already available to the employees at the Tuby.'"
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers has apprenticeship program
David A. Carnes, membership development coordinator, at the IBEW — International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 688 — said, "With the entire country experiencing a labor shortage, the IBEW is not exempt from the labor crisis.
"Our employers are looking for qualified professionals — who are safety and detail oriented, who can come in and work right away with limited training and supervision," he said in a statement.
"There is no shortage of applicants, but the skilled experienced electricians with five or more years' experience are just spread so thin that the industry has been struggling to meet the demands of the customers," Carnes said.
The IBEW Local 688 offers a living wage with benefits that help its members not only today with employer-paid health insurance that covers the entire family, but also providing for workers later in life through retirement and pension plans, he added.
"Right now there are projects coming up and the need for labor is just going to become even more of an issue," Carnes said. "This is even before the 'Build Back Better' bill which has been touted to be good paying, union jobs so that we can build back better with a strong middle class that has all but disappeared amidst the economic inequality over the past 40-plus years."
The IBEW has an apprenticeship program tailored to meet the growing needs of the industry as well as training its workforce to be safety-minded individuals, he added.
U.S. Steelworkers Local 1313 in Marion, representing members at International Paper
Ian Ware, president of Steelworkers Local 1313 in Marion, representing members at International Paper, said in today's world there are more jobs than people.
"Our employer offers all the added benefits that people are looking for in a long-term position. This long-term position offers union negotiated competitive wages, healthcare, 401K and and a pension that is hard to find in the workplace," Ware said.
Cleveland Cliffs Mansfield Works produces steel
Elsewhere, Steve Ackerman, president of U.S. Steelworkers Local 169, whose members represent Cleveland Cliffs (formerly AK Steel) AT 913 Bowman St., said with the lack of people in the workforce today worldwide, a career at Cleveland Cliffs Mansfield Works is a great employment opportunity.
"We just negotiated a 53-month agreement with good wage and pension increases, active/retiree health-care enhancements, and what appears to be a very prosperous future with the largest` flat-rolled steel producer in the United States," Ackerman said.
The "Build Back Better" bill is expected to provide more opportunities for manufacturing, skilled trades, and many other union workforces in the United States moving forward for decades to come, he added.
Steel produced in Mansfield at Cleveland Cliffs is used mainly in the automotive market, along with electrical steel, Whirlpool appliances, GE appliances and more, Ackerman said.
"A strong economy helps us sell more product and secure our jobs," he said.
This article originally appeared on Mansfield News Journal: Local labor leaders say companies can't get workers