In many places, job shortages are a part of reality for residents. Individuals are pressured to attain four year degrees, accept unpaid internships, and spend full time hours handing out resumes to find a position. There can be hundreds or even thousands of applicants all vying for a single job. All in all, finding gainful employment can be difficult for those in regions with job shortages and high unemployment.
Yet, at this moment, Elkhart has quite the opposite problem. In an unusual twist, employers in the area find themselves the ones competing against one another to acquire and retain talent. There is an estimated shortage of 20,000 workers to fill the office, manufacturing, and customer service positions available. Some employers have even resorted to scooping up new hires from fast food restaurants. They come in and watch the employees, offering a higher paying job to the hardest working employee at the restaurant. This kind of poaching has created a crisis for many fast food establishments in the area. Many have been forced to reduce their hours of operation, close for periods of time, or close off the dining room and restrict their business to the drive-through.
Many companies are also suffering from higher churn. As the fierce competition for a limited pool of employees heightens, options for employees increases. Workers are leaving their jobs for better positions, higher salary, or improved benefits from other companies. It is a problem that needs to be addressed quickly by both employers as well as local government. While residents may enjoy increased employment rates and better wages, this shortage can lead to businesses being forced out of the area.
More importantly, despite the shortage and increase in wages, the median household income in the area has still failed to recover from the recession. Elkhart County's average hourly wage continues to fall behind the national average by 17%. The supply and demand need to be balanced out with a much more substantial increase in pay for employees. This is one way in which companies may be able to attract and retain skilled workers.
Another important consideration is transforming the area in a way that invites more people to come build a life in Elkhart County. The region needs to encourage families to come find a job, buy a house, and settle down here. It can only do that by making some much needed changes to the community. The Vibrant Communities initiative provides a plan of action, but it needs to be implemented more quickly in order to correct this shortage of employees soon.
The shortage of employees in Elkhart County provide an opportunity for young people to find financial stability and security without the investment in a four year degree. There are many positions available in the skilled trades and manufacturing that students can consider. The options are there, but it is important for young people to recognize them. Students who go away for college are encouraged to come back to work here.