Out-of-work Farmland workers add to labor pool

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 13, 2001

ALBERT LEA – With 500 Farmland employees out of work, other employers in the area suddenly have a huge pool of available labor.

Friday, July 13, 2001

ALBERT LEA – With 500 Farmland employees out of work, other employers in the area suddenly have a huge pool of available labor.

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It didn’t take long for Farmland employees to start stopping into employment services like Manpower, manager Mary Hacker said. Since the fire Sunday, she has seen several employees looking for work.

"Maybe they don’t just want to settle for unemployment," Hacker said. "This is their livelihood."

It has been difficult to find jobs for many of those she has seen, however, because their English skills aren’t on par with what most companies require, she said.

Another employment agency, Express Personnel Services, has seen more Farmland employees as the week has gone on, manager Amy Kennedy said.

"We’re starting to get a tremendous amount of calls," Kennedy said. The demand for workers is picking up, as well, providing some available work, she said.

Farmland employees may need to wait until they learn the future of the Albert Lea meat processor before they head to employment agencies, however. At Express, for instance, 80 percent of the available jobs are temp-to-hire or other full-time placements, so strictly temporary work may be harder to find, Kennedy said.

Some industrial employers also have seen a wave of applications from displaced Farmland employees. Schwiegert in Albert Lea has had 30 applications in the first four days after the fire; in contrast, the company had 114 applications all last month, Assistant Human Resources Director Rosanna Dorn said.

"The biggest share of them have been from Farmland," Dorn said. Schwiegert, however, isn’t looking to hire any line workers, so they’ve been putting the applications on file, she said.

"You can only have so many people, and if you’re lucky enough to get the good ones who stay with you, you don’t have to replace anybody," she said. The plant employs around 300 industrial workers and 50 office staff.

Aware that Farmland workers may be looking for work, the Minnesota Workforce Center’s Albert Lea office is planning a job fair next week.

"We’re certainly trying to make every effort to connect employees who are looking for work at this time with employers in the area," said Curt Schoenrock, a job-service program specialist with the workforce center.

The jobs fair is planned from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday at the Albert Lea National Guard Armory. Employers or employees can call (507) 379-3409 for more information.

Schoenrock said the employment market of the next few months will depend on what Farmland decides about the future of its Albert Lea plant.

"I think the employees and everyone else in the community is waiting to see what kind of decision the company will make down the road," he said.

Call Dylan Belden at (507) 379-3433 or e-mail him at dylan.belden@albertleatribune.com.