"Help Wanted" Employers are taking different approaches to fill jobs

“Help Wanted” signs are a common sight in the window or on the front door of small retail shops and restaurants. One of our region’s larger employers has taken that visual to another level. When traveling eastbound on the US-10 freeway between Midland and Bay City, Hemlock Semiconductor Operations (HSC) is currently displaying an ad on a billboard advertising jobs at their facility. Andy Ault is the senior vice-president of manufacturing at HSC, “We’re in a growth mode. We need people.” 

HSC, like most employers across the country, has been challenged to keep jobs filled since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic when the United States went into shutdown mode two years ago this week. The national unemployment rate hit a peak of 14.8% in April 2020 when many businesses had to close temporarily or significantly reduce their operations, sometimes letting go staff.

HSC is an “opportunity to have a career, not just a job, whether you’re an operator, tradesperson or engineer.”
The unemployment rate has significantly improved since then. It stood at 3.8% in February.The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics  reported the U.S. added 678,000 jobs, due to gains in leisure, hospitality, health care, construction, and professional and business services. Despite those gains, many jobs remain unfilled, leading some businesses to curtail operations. Many reasons are cited but whatever the reason, employers are taking different measures to try to fill those gaps.

Hemlock Semiconductor Operations (HSC) is the nation’s largest manufacturer of high-purity polysilicon used in the semiconductor and solar industries. If you have a cell phone, it likely has HSC polysilicon in it. Their facility on Geddes Road, is located over four miles east of Hemlock and 17 miles south of Midland. They employ 1,000 people.

“It’s a really meaningful place to work, “ says Ault. He points out that HSC’s polysilicon is the purest man made substance on earth. With a 30% market share, Ault says, “You’re touching everyone in the world in some way.”  They see more opportunity for growth with the expansion of solar industries.
HSC’s polysilicon is the purest man made substance on earth.
HSC’s most visible effort to recruit is the billboard campaign in the region. HSC has hired a marketing firm out of Detroit, Brogan & Partners, to coordinate that effort. In addition to the billboards, HSC has brought back a retiree to go to high schools and community colleges to increase awareness of HSC. The company has asked employees to refer people. Ault says that’s been “very successful.” In January, HSC converted 400 people who had worked for Qualified Staffing in operational roles to direct HSC hires. Ault says that’s helped make the workforce more stable. They used to have significant turnover. 

They’re in need of cleanroom operators, an entry level position, and reactor care operators. Other positions available include manufacturing engineers, manufacturing automation technicians, and quality control specialists. The qualifications vary depending on the position. 
“We’re in a growth mode. We need people.” 
New employees are eligible for medical, dental, and vision insurance along with paid time off. The company will match contributions up to 4% of an employee’s pay for 401(k) retirement accounts. There’s also a tuition reimbursement program for employees working to advance their careers.

Ault, a Midland High and Purdue University grad, started as a college co-op at Dow Corning. His Dad was employed there for 40 years.  After college, Ault first worked as a process engineer at Dow Corning’s Carrollton, Kentucky plant for 14 years. He made the move to HSC in 2006. 

Ault says, “We’re really about encouraging development and enabling people to be recognized and learn…Those are some of our elements..We have lots of paths for people to grow.”  He adds working at HSC is an “opportunity to have a career, not just a job, whether you’re an operator,
tradesperson or engineer.” Learn more at www.hemlockjobs.com

HSC is not alone in taking a different approach to fill positions. The Midland based owners of the Domino’s Pizza franchise in Midland and three other stores in the region decided to hire a full-time human resources manager to lead their recruiting efforts. Chris & Elaine Schloemann have owned the shop in Midland for 14 years. Chris says, “With all of our turnover, the situation was so desperate, in the fall of 2020, we decided to hire someone to recruit, hire, and do the onboarding and take that out of the hands of our managers.”  Chris says that’s enabled their managers to concentrate on making food and providing customer service.
Midland General Manager Stanton McAtee ready to cut some pizzas.
The Schloemann’s have 25-30 persons working at each of three locations in the area with one in Midland on Rodd Street, and two in Bay City. A fourth store in Clio has a smaller staff.  Midland is their highest volume store.  In each store, they have managers, customer service reps, and delivery experts. The reps are the pizza makers, who also handle customer service in person and over the phone.  They point out that 75% of their team members each work 30 hours or more in a week.

After they made the decision to hire the full-time HR manager, Chris Schloemann says, “We’re no longer in desperation mode. We’re not having the massive turnover we were experiencing.” Elaine adds “The revolving door has stopped. The quality of potential employees has increased. We have a better hiring pool.”
Midland Assistant Manager Jacob Glasgow serving a customer
Chris notes it was an expensive move for their company, CCK Pizza Company, LLC but they haven’t had any store closures or had to reduce hours, unlike some other franchises.  Chris says the HR manager is “focused on nothing but recruiting and hiring. She’s not working in my stores, not making pizzas.” Regarding advertising their openings, Schloemann’s says what’s working for them is sponsored ads on Indeed.com, which is a job website, some ads on Facebook, and some targeted Facebook promotions.

Their workforce is in the 18-65 year old age group. It includes college students, moms who work while their kids are in school, retirees who want something to do, and teachers working for extra money. The typical age is about 25. For the younger crew members, Chris says, “It’s a great way to get started in life, learning how to deal with people.”  The starting pay for a customer service rep is $10 per hour while delivery experts are paid minimum wage plus mileage and they can earn tips. 
Delivery Expert Toni Gallagher prepares for a delivery.
Domino’s has around 6,000 stores in the United States, and 18,000 worldwide. Their headquarters are in Ann Arbor. The Schloemann’s report 95% of franchise owners started as crew members. Elaine says Chris started as a driver. He’s a Bullock Creek High School grad, she’s from Jackson. 

Most managers are former customer service reps or drivers who have been promoted. Elaine says, “One of the best things is the crew members become good friends, they support each other when they come to work, and have fun.” They’ve even had some relationships develop into marriages.

Chris views the main qualifications to work for them as being “dependable and honest, “while Elaine says they’re looking for “Someone who wants to work, somebody who wants to grow.” To apply, go to: https://jobs.dominos.com/us/ 

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Read more articles by Ron Beacom.

Ron Beacom has served as the managing editor of Catalyst Midland since October 2020. He's also a freelance writer for the Midland Daily News and the producer/host of "Second Act: Life at 50 Plus" for WDCQ-Delta College Public Media (PBS). He's the co-producer of two WDCQ documentaries about the Tittabawassee River Disaster in 2020, "Breached! and Breached!2-The Recovery."