The chief executive officer of the Indiana Manufacturers Association says most manufacturers in the state are optimistic in the economic recovery after the pandemic with about 63% saying they are “mostly optimistic.” However, there are still significant concerns about finding enough qualified workers to fill empty production positions. IMA CEO Brian Burton says the organization’s 2021 Spring Business Survey reveals 59% of respondents indicated it has been “extremely hard” to find workers.

”They look at their book of business…and they’re optimistic because of their orders they have and what they see in the future,” said Burton. “But the challenges that they’re seeing is trying to hire qualified workers get the workforce back.”

The survey measured employer’s responses on workforce availability, supply chain and federal unemployment benefits. Burton says the additional money given to people on unemployment is hindering companies’ ability to hire. The survey shows 84% said “yes” when asked if the federal unemployment benefits had affected their ability to hire workers.

“About 75% of our members responded that they could increase production if they could just find the workers,” said Burton.

Last week, Marion Superior Court Judge John Hanley ruled the state must immediately reinstate the benefits that were halted by Governor Eric Holcomb. The state of Indiana is appealing the judge’s decision. “The unemployment benefits have provided as a disincentive. I talked to one of our members that said last week before this judge’s decision reimplementing the unemployment supplemental benefits, they had their best hiring week in over a month,” said Burton.

But it is not only federal unemployment creating hiring challenges. Burton says a big explosion of a retiring generation is another bump. “Baby boomers are retiring in this country at about 10,000 a day. We have about 40% of our workforce that’s going to be retiring within the next 10 years. And it’s very difficult. We don’t have the population to replace them,” said Burton.

Burton says Indiana manufacturers also face strong headwinds in the supply chain. Forty percent of respondents said they are dealing with serious, but manageable delays, while 42% said they were experiencing some manageable delays. “We have to rethink our just in time manufacturing processes that that have been adopted over the last decade or two. So having parts on site, ready to go, is more important than it ever has been,” added Burton.

Moving forward, Burton says the challenge now is to take the lessons of COVID-19 and use them to propel business forward with fresh ideas and discern how to remain agile in times of uncertainty. He also says there are opportunities for people looking for a career change.

“As we look for that workforce, it’s important that young people look at manufacturing. The average compensation and manufacturing in Indiana $77,000 a year. All other sectors combined is about $48,000. So, the premium pay is there,” said Burton. “It provides opportunities for Hoosiers to for quality of life and to support themselves and their families.”

To view the survey results, click here.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Burton said it is a “perfect storm” for hiring managers.