Alabama's Top Employers Compete for Skilled Workers

Mon December 04, 2017 - Southeast Edition #25
Construction Equipment Guide

The Hyundai assembly plant in Montgomery, Ala.
(Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama photo)
The Hyundai assembly plant in Montgomery, Ala. (Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama photo)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) Some of Alabama's top job providers have been working to find more people trained in industrial maintenance.

Employers competing for these workers include the Hyundai assembly plant in Montgomery, The Montgomery Advertiser reported.

Industrial maintenance is the plant's “weak spot' when it comes to finding and recruiting the right people, said Robert Burns, a spokesman of Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama.

“But there's only so many we can get because we're not the only ones looking for them,' Burns said. “Rheem is looking for them. BMW is looking for them. I'm sure International Paper is looking for them. We're still competing for what is a very small pool of people.'

The plant recently formed a partnership with Trenholm State Community College to help shore up the ranks. The plant uses its students as summer interns and — in some cases — hires them.

The job involves the care and upkeep of the machines that keep the plant running. It only requires a two-year degree and can pay $60,000 to $80,000.

Trenholm State student Jacob Jacks is studying industrial maintenance.

“I've just always been interested in the field,' Jacks told the Montgomery newspaper. “I've always been fascinated by how industry works.'

Jacks pictures himself working on a dam, perhaps for an employer like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or Alabama Power.

Changes in industry and technology mean jobs that were once considered low-skill now require “all sorts of disciplines,' said David Felton, Trenholm's new dean of workforce development. On top of that, decades of negative perceptions about those jobs have kept people away from the field and created more of a need, even as salaries have risen.

Educators and industry have worked to get the word out through TV ads and talking to younger students. Community colleges are working with tech programs for teenagers in Montgomery, Tallassee, Macon County and elsewhere to help build a better pipeline.

“They're trying their best to get high school students thinking about automotive or other maintenance fields because the money's pretty darn good,' Burns said. “We hope that pipeline grows because people have more interest.'

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