When Companies Offer Good Jobs But Can’t Find Takers

Do you want to uproot everything and move to rural Indiana?

Warsaw, Indiana. Photo credit: Brad P., CC BY 2.0.

I’ve been sharing a lot of stories about jobs lately—the teens and young adults who don’t have workplace experience, the truck drivers and retail workers who are seeing their benefits and wages eroded—so I wanted to add this one to the discussion queue:

In this part of the Midwest, the problem isn’t China. It’s too many jobs.

Each day at Zimmer Biomet headquarters, machinists on one robot-assisted factory floor churn out about 3,000 metallic knee parts. They are facing pressure to crank up the pace as the population ages and demand soars.

But the artificial-bone giant is grappling with a steep downside of the nation’s low unemployment rate: It is struggling to find enough workers, despite offering some of the region’s best pay and benefits. Forty positions sit open.

Other manufacturers in ­Kosciusko County, home to roughly one-third of global orthopedic device production, are running into the same problem.

The Washington Post, thankfully, is not vague about the details. They specify that these jobs pay $50,000 a year, and that the employers are looking for “machinists certified in high school or local technical programs”—no four-year degree required.

But there are a few problems. One is that people in Kosciusko County already have jobs.

Of the county’s 41,136 adults who can work, 40,311 are employed, according to government statistics.

The second is that young people don’t want to stay in a county—not a city, an entire county—with a population that small. They also don’t want to do factory work. Even when Zimmer Biomet and other Kosciusko County manufacturers offer to pay for the cost of high school students’ certifications, they get very few takers.

Meanwhile, people who need work aren’t necessarily going to uproot everything and move to Warsaw, Indiana; not all of them are going to be trained machinists, for starters, and even the ones who are might have family or other commitments keeping them in their current location. (Also, you know, the cost of moving.)

Not to say that Zimmer Biomet hasn’t been working on recruitment:

It has brought in 30 workers from Puerto Rico and a few more from New Jersey, paying for their apartments and cars.

But if they can’t find enough workers, the only option is to… well, uproot everything and move operations to a larger city, like Indianapolis or Chicago. Just like all of the young people who left their rural hometowns for a place with more opportunity.

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