Despite high unemployment in Macon metro area, jobs go unfilled

rmanley@macon.comFebruary 19, 2012 

Despite a near double-digit jobless rate, the Macon metro area actually grew 500 jobs over the past year.

Aviation companies Timco and Bombardier added substantial numbers of employees, as did Geico at its growing Macon office.

“Geico continues to add people,” said Pat Topping, Macon Economic Development Commission’s senior vice president. “I bet they’ve hired two or three hundred people last year.”

State labor officials say the biggest growth in the metro Macon job market came in the professional, business and financial services sectors. The area’s strong retail industry also accounted for many of the new jobs.

The good news is there are still jobs out there. Job seekers just have to know where to look, whether it’s on the Internet, at the state Department of Labor’s Career Center or perhaps with a staffing agency.

For example, the job site Career builder.com recently listed Geico in Macon as having seven active open jobs, ranging from liability claims representative to senior dispatcher. However, the job-search site has a link to Geico’s website, and a search of its career pages found 11 open positions.

Jarail Mann has gone offline and old school with his hunt for work. He’s pounding the pavement and cold calling employers such as the Sav-A-Lot warehouse, Mercer University and ACH Building Service. He used resources at the state Department of Labor’s Career Center to spruce up the résumé that he leaves with employers, hoping his experience operating a scalehouse, driving a forklift or even stripping floors might make an impression.

“I go to the company,” said Mann.

The 25-year-old father of five worked for almost eight months with Macon Chips logging company until his job through a temp service ended about two months ago.

“All of a sudden -- boom!” he said.

Companies need skilled labor

Not all of the vacant jobs are there for taking by just anyone. The MEDC’s Topping says 68 companies that responded to a recent existing industry survey said they have dozens of open positions they’ve been unable to fill.

“That’s what a bunch of people identified, is that there is a shortage of skilled workforce that they can’t locate,” said Topping. “My cohorts around the state hear the same thing.”

The 68 companies have 142 unfilled jobs, Topping said, and the survey predicted more jobs in the near future.

“The three-year outlook was for an additional 663 jobs and an additional $189 million in capital and equipment,” he said. “Manufacturing is up. Productivity is up. Employment may be down, but productivity is up.”

The companies, Topping said, are looking for a workforce with “three components.”

“They’re going to have to understand complex machinery. They have to learn to work on teams. Teamwork is critical. And they have to have problem-solving skills.”

Topping suggested that job seekers look in technical fields.

“That includes anything from machine operators, production technicians to maintenance folks. Those and industrial engineers are in short supply. That’s nationwide,” he said.

Topping stressed that people get some type of post-secondary education after high school.

“They’ve got to get into technical colleges or traditional colleges,” he said. “Technical colleges are really turning out people who can go to work.”

Many employers are requiring the Georgia Work Ready certification before they even considering an applicant.

Bob Thompson, manager of the state Career Center on Mercer University Drive, said the center sends “a lot of people” to Central Georgia Technical College for the Work Ready testing.

“You can have a great résumé, but some employers want to see that Work Ready score along with that,” Thompson said.

Health care workers are in demand

Many employers, but not all, use the state Labor Department to list and help fill job openings. Some jobs, however, can be found only on the company’s website.

For instance, diaper-maker First Quality, a close-to-the-vest operation, is advertising on its site for manufacturing technicians for its new state-of-the-art plant on Avondale Mill Road. The starting pay is $11 an hour, and the site promotes a long list of employee benefits, as well.

Companies that do enlist the labor department do so anonymously.

“We don’t have any trouble filling jobs,” Thompson said.

Thompson identified the office’s top five job fields, the ones the office is asked to fill most often.

Home health care

Nursing (registered and licensed practical nurses)

Restaurant jobs, mainly cooks and servers

Transportation jobs

Security

“We always have truck driver and dispatcher jobs,” said Thompson. “We’ll have jobs available in other fields, as well.”

Applicants interested in security jobs or production positions also might fare well by contacting a staffing service.

Sizemore in Macon fills janitorial and security jobs for Macon companies, as well as a few in Warner Robins and Milledgeville.

“We have about 92 security officers and we have 25 different sites,” said Sizemore’s Tonya Chulawat.

Shai Gibson, staffing specialist at Manpower Services in Macon, said Manpower typically fills positions in production and warehousing, as well as some administrative assistant and medical billing jobs.

“Production has really picked up,” Gibson said.

A recent search on the Internet found local jobs as different as process engineer at Armstrong’s ceiling plant to cow mascot for area Chik-fil-A stores. The mascot job demanded an outgoing personality and some dancing or gymnastic skills, but it appeared to have been filled days later and was no longer online.

The process technician job is still being advertised.

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