Manufacturers draw good response at job fair | Northwest Indiana Business Headlines

WESTVILLE — There was no shortage of opportunity for job seekers when close to 30 manufacturers from Northwest Indiana gathered Thursday to try and fill job openings.

Co-workers Alaiyah Langston, 22, and Tammy White, 51, both of Michigan City, said they were encouraged to discover the companies they approached pay more than what they’re currently earning for similar assembly line work.

“The cost of living is going up and our pay where we are now is not,” Langston said.

White said a $4 an hour or more wage increase would be worth taking a job at another company, with two mouths to feed and a mortgage to pay on a home she recently purchased.

“That’s a huge difference,” she said.

The job fair, sponsored by the Center of Workforce Innovations in Valparaiso, was held Thursday afternoon at the Purdue Northwest campus near Westville.

Barb Grimsgard, director of communications for CWI, said manufacturers were mostly looking to fill entry level positions, but some companies have more openings for mid-level jobs.

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In many cases, she said the need for qualified and reliable workers remains high, but finding them has become more challenging.

Grimsgard said some people who didn’t work during the pandemic are interested in earning a paycheck again, but not with their former employer or occupation. Priorities have changed for some of those workers, and the current job market provides them with more choices, she said.

“They had time to assess what they really want to do. They assessed what’s important to them. They realized ‘I haven’t been working but we managed.’ It really is a job seeker’s market right now,” she said.

Grimsgard said more people in the workforce are also looking at not just higher pay but a sense of being valued in choosing where they want to work.

Mariano Oliveri of Michigan City said a stable, fun and enjoyable workplace ranks first on his job hunting list.

Oliveri, experienced in the hospitality industry and marketing, said he’s using his time between jobs to find a career more suitable to his bachelor’s degree in business and skills at dealing with people.

Right now, Oliveri said getting his foot in the door is more important than money.

“The only thing I want from my next employer is to recognize my efforts and, if I do a good job, reward my effort,” he said.

Another challenge for manufacturers needing labor is overcoming the negative image of their workplaces as dirty, heavy industrial-type environments.

Grimsgard said the opposite is actually true nowadays, due to advancements in technology.

“It’s not your dad or grandfather’s plant like it used to be,” she said.

Among the employers at the job fair was MSI Express, which has plants in Hammond and Portage.

The firm, with about 1,500 employees at more than a dozen locations nationwide, packages and ships mostly food products, including cereal, oatmeal, pancake mix and baked goods, for name brand companies.

Human Resources Manager Ricardo Senteno said his company has a lot of openings, ranging from the production floor to office management.

Senteno said commitment and desire to move up the ladder with the company are among the things sought in job applicants.

“Someone looking to grow, work as a team and be dedicated. That’s probably one of the things we’re most looking for — dedication,” he said.

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