Sunday, March 13, 2011

HR director: Schools fail to produce enough compliant workers

Oconee County's economic development director sympathized with a local human resources director this week over the poor pool of applicants for factory jobs, saying, "We have to have a work force that will come to work every day, on time and sober. And that’s a problem.”

Jim Alexander, Oconee's economic development director, was echoing the sentiments of Dave Baker, industrial personnel manager at BorgWarner in Seneca.

BorgWarner is "a leading independent global designer and producer of transfer cases and torque management devices for all-wheel drive passenger cars, crossover vehicles, sports-utility vehicles and light trucks." The company employs about 17,400 worldwide, including about 430 employees in Seneca. In 2006, it reported sales of $4.6 billion worldwide.

A number of factors weigh against the applicant pool, Baker said: illiteracy, a high high-school dropout rate, and an increase in applicants with a criminal record.

He said these factors make it harder to make good hires in a market where he has to seek what he calls “fresh blood,” younger workers, those with less experience and those with no experience, because older skilled workers aren’t looking for new jobs.

Given that workers with an eye on their fiscal circumstances often go where wages and benefits are best, Baker may have suggested to the Independent Mail that BorgWarner's offer isn't competitive -- at least not as sweet to more mature workers as it to the "fresh blood" he mentioned.

“It’s harder now for me to hire away from other companies,” Baker said. “If the older workers have jobs they’re staying put.”

As a result, companies are lowering their hiring standards; a criminal history for beating one's spouse is less of an obstacle to successful placement at the factory, for example.

The hard market means some requirements have to be softened, Baker said. A criminal domestic violence conviction 20 years ago, for instance, is less of a black mark than one two years ago.

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