MOUNT STERLING, Ky. (FOX 56) – According to Marketplace, The Labor Department reported that manufacturing jobs rose by 29,000 jobs in June, but here in Kentucky one plant said filling jobs is still a concern, so they’re getting creative with how they attract new hires.

Cooper-Standard has been open for 26 years and never had an issue retaining employees. When the pandemic hit, the manufacturer of automobile engine hoses had to temporarily shut their plant down, but then when they re-opened, they ran into an unexpected challenge holding on to new hires.

Dave Cox, plant manager at Cooper-Standard said, “We have openings that the employees will come in and apply, come in for the first day of orientation, and then not come back.”

Cooper-Standard has 365 employees, with 60 current job openings.

The business has workers who have been with them for more than 20 years, but the newer generation of employees fluctuates.

“It seems that with all of the stimulus payments, unemployment payments, extension of benefits, employees can make almost as much as staying at home as they can not working,” Cox said.

Cox said another reason for the turnover in employment is because of childcare and having many single parents on the team.

Cooper-Standard had to get creative not just with hiring, but also with retention.

“I think 14-hour days is probably the biggest hit. Everybody wants to work four days a week and have three days off on the weekend,” Cox said.

Cox also created incentivized bonuses and increased wages.

“So our starting pay is $17.03, and the top pay for an operator in the facility is $24.33 an hour,” Cox said.

However, Cooper-Standard is not the only manufacturing plant adjusting to the lack of workforce participation

Jason Rainey, executive director of the Mount Sterling-Montgomery County Industrial Authority said, “We’re seeing the same trend across both industrial parks, as we’re seeing across Kentucky, a low labor of participation rate. Kentucky is 45th out of 50 states in labor participation, so we need to continue to look at programs that may be disincentivizing folks to come back to work.”

Rainey said the pandemic changed the way people look at work, but it also changed the way employers look at hiring, and action need to be taken at the state level.

“It’s a challenge, but an opportunity. We want to see Kentucky leading in categories, workforce participation is such an important category, so we’ve got to find from a policy perspective how to drive folks back to being in the workforce,” Rainey said.

Cooper-Standard added that it is critical to fill their job openingss because it would also help them get up to speed with their backlog.

They supply parts to dealerships across the United States, including GM, Ford, and Toyota. If they do not have the manpower to manufacture and ship these parts out on time, then it’s up to the current employees to drive it out and deliver the parts themselves.

To apply for a job at Cooper Standard, click here.

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