OBITUARIES: Decatur | Shoals | Huntsville
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Job hunting: Timing, training stressed
Potential employers advise high school seniors about opportunities in workforce
By Bayne Hughes
The Decatur Daily

John Godby/The Decatur Daily
Decatur Heritage High School student, Lucas Cowart, tries to see how many pull ups he can do at the U.S. Marine booth at the 2013 Career & Workforce Expo on Wednesday at Calhoun Community College. Cowart, who wants to join the U.S. Navy some day, lost count of his pull ups.

R.A. Hubbard High senior Wiley Young went to Calhoun Community College on Wednesday seeking information for his post-graduation decision.

Young, 17, was among more than 1,000 students from Lawrence, Limestone and Morgan counties attending the 2013 Career & Workforce Expo.

“If I can get a job right out of high school, I will,” Young said. “If not, I’ll go to college. I want to know everything I can about my opportunities.”

Representatives from 45 businesses and industries said jobs are available, but a prospect needs the right skills, attitude and timing.

Area unemployment rates (6.1 percent in Morgan County, 5.8 in Limestone in December) are low compared to state and national figures. The statewide rate was 6.5 percent.

The job gains are necessary to push employers to raise pay to attract workers.

Valerie Curtis, area marketing representative for EPSCO Inc., said her staffing company’s business picked up in January with more demand for applicants.

Curtis said general laborer jobs are available for $7.25 to $10 an hour.

“There are a lot of job openings, but we can’t find applicants because the jobs aren’t their dream job,” Curtis said.

Charlene Barney, human resources specialist for M&D Mechanical Contractors, said the construction business also is busier. Turnover is high so her company usually hires 50 to 75 people for a project. The best time to apply is spring or summer, she said.

Barney said entry level laborers make $8 or $9 an hour. Most jobs that pay $15 to $25 an hour require at least a two-year degree, Curtis and Barney said.

Barney said pipe welders, pipefitters and licensed plumbers are in high demand. Curtis said machinists also are a major need.

Morgan County has 15 Fortune 500 employers, and most require a skill learned through education or experience.

A high school diploma or GED is a minimum requirement for any work.

Nucor is one of the few industries not requiring at least a skill certificate.

“A highly motivated employee is our main criteria,” said Tracy Dobbs, Nucor’s hot mill supervisor.

Dobbs said his company prefers to provide its own training after finding a good employee.

Turnover is minimal, and Nucor takes applications only once every two years. He said the company then hires as needed from an approved pool. The next hiring period is February 2014.

Hope Hamilton, human resources representative for Nucor, said the company needs electricians, mechanics and metallurgists. Engineers also are in demand.

With 260 employees and roughly 140 contractors at Ascend Performance Materials, human resources specialist Theresa Nolan said her company hires as needed.

With an average wage of $20 an hour, she said, employees tend to grab the jobs and stay with them.

“There are a lot of opportunities for engineers or someone with a four-year degree in industrial maintenance,” Nolan said.

Nolan said the best way to get hired at Ascend is to begin a degree course at Calhoun and become a co-op student in the local plants.

Daikin America is planning an expansion, so it is hiring about 25 people, human resources manager Forrest Keith said.

“Once that’s done, we won’t have many openings the rest of the year,” Keith said.

Keith and Nolan said their companies are particularly interested in applicants with two-year process technology degrees.

Calhoun Dean Bethany Shockney said students learn to operate and maintain equipment in process technology. The program has about 40 students.

“We have room for more,” Shockney said. “This is a growing program because there’s so much industry demand.”

Bayne Hughes can be reached at 256-340-2432 or hughes@decaturdaily.com.

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