TAMPA — Manufacturing companies are turning to unconventional methods to find employees in the face of a severe shortage of qualified applicants.
Southern Manufacturing Technologies found one employee from a robotics competition. Others were hired after showing interest during a factory tour.
"We spend a lot of time on outreach to get the students that we're getting," said Shannon Sweatman, the company's human resource director. "But nobody knows we exist."
Community leaders unveiled a $200,000, two-year marketing campaign at Tampa Bay Technical High School on Thursday morning in an effort to boost awareness and interest in the manufacturing industry. It is part of more than $1 million being invested in equipment, training, scholarships and internships that they hope will reopen the spigot for Hillsborough County's manufacturing labor force.
The newly formed Manufacturing Alliance of Hillsborough County, which is driving the campaign, consists of county government, Hillsborough Community College, the public school district and CareerSource Tampa Bay.
A new website, MadeInHillsborough.org, will be "the one-stop shop for all things manufacturing," county spokeswoman Andrea Roshaven said. Students, parents, veterans and others interested in entering the manufacturing sector will be able to turn to it for information on the industry.
Private sector job numbers released this week by ADP Regional Employment Report showed that 100 manufacturing jobs were created around Tampa Bay in March, trailing far behind 2,600 in natural resources/mining and 4,400 in trade, transportation and utilities.
Officials indicated Thursday that there is substantial potential growth in manufacturing — that is, if they can find a way to train more students and other prospects and then connect them with employers.
"We can't turn out welders fast enough," said Hillsborough Community College spokeswoman Ashley Carl. She said the college has expanded classes to run from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. five days a week and is considering adding a weekend course. There are currently 48 students enrolled.
According to a study last year by the Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., there are more than 2,000 manufacturing companies with 60,000 employees in the Tampa Bay region.
Southern Manufacturing has been in business for 30 years building parts for the aerospace and the defense industries. It has about 110 employees.
While it would be nice to find someone with production technician or metalworking certifications, the ideal candidates are those with "passion, ambition and drive," Sweatman said. She said they can learn the rest.
Contact Alli Knothe at email@example.com. Follow @KnotheA.