Winsted manufacturers struggling to find employees

HO Products President Chris Olson at the Economic Development Commission's manufacturing summit on Thursday, May 20.
HO Products President Chris Olson at the Economic Development Commission's manufacturing summit on Thursday, May 20.

WINSTED — In a post-pandemic economy, local manufacturers and companies are struggling to fill positions.
That was the consensus reached at the Economic Development Commission’s first-ever manufacturing summit on Thursday, May 20.
The summit was held at HO Products Corporation at 12 Munro Street.
The event included company representatives from Fairchild, East Coast Lighting, Viz Pro, American Collars and Couplings, and Hitchcock Chairs.
“I think this summit is important because the manufacturers are the lifeblood in this town and its history,” commission member Dewey Yeager said. “It’s important to have people and companies that are making things in your backyard. What we are trying to do is get a good feel for what’s working and what’s not working. We want to see what we can help with.”
“Manufacturers all provide a significant number of jobs in Winsted and into the area,” commission chairman Dennis Dressel said. “Instead of trading dollars like retailers and the restaurants, the manufacturers bring value into the area. It’s critical for the long-term growth and success of Winsted.”
Dressel estimated that manufacturing companies in Winsted employ close to 1,000 people.
But, according to HO Products President Chris Olson and others at the summit, the major problem the companies are having right now is finding people to fill jobs.
“We have been trying to find machine operators for some time,” Olson said. “We cannot find operators for many of our machines. We’ve been looking for six months in some cases to find operators. We are going through Oliver Wolcott Technical High School to get people in here. We’re going to be getting a teenager to operate a $200,000 machine.”
‎Amanda Lejeune, an HR Coordinator from Schaeffler Aerospace, said that her company is having similar problems.
“We are struggling to fill positions,” Lejeune said. “It’s very hard right now due to the economy and Covid. We are struggling, along with other companies.”
Some of the attendees at the meeting blamed expanded state Covid-related unemployment benefits as the reason why positions are being unfilled, with several of the attendees citing that people were making more money by staying home than working at a job.
“When I took over this company in 1990, there was a lot of good talent here,” Olson said. “You did not have to think about finding qualified operators because, whenever you needed someone, you had a great labor pool. It’s not like that any longer.”
He added that it is possible that people still have misconceptions about manufacturing.
“People think that manufacturing is a dirty job, but it’s not,” he said. “It’s not the dirty, nasty turn of the century thing that many people have in mind. We need to figure out ways to make Winsted more attractive and manufacturing more attractive.”

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