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Peoria Area Companies Hope Hiring ‘Extravaganza’ Helps Fill Vacancies

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Joe Deacon
Morton Industries is one of more than 60 companies already registered to participate in the Greater Peoria Hiring Exgtravaganza on Sept. 1.

OSF HealthCare says it has more than 750 open positions in the greater Peoria area. UnityPoint Health has close to 500 vacancies. And Morton Industries is looking to hire about 70 additional workers.

The three companies are among more than 60 businesses signed up to participate in a “hiring extravaganza” spearheaded by the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council.

“This will serve to bring just extra awareness to our community members that are looking for jobs, as well as foster extra encouragement and hope around our region that there are jobs to be had,” said Kari Rauh, the EDC’s Director of Workforce Solutions.

The Sept. 1 event will have participating prospective employers place purple balloons outside their businesses to encourage walk-in applications. Job seekers also can apply online, with links to each company’s hiring webpage compiled on the EDC’s event site: www.greaterpeoriaedc.org/hiring.

“It's getting the word out to everybody that there are a lot of quality employers out there that could use great people to come join their culture,” said Morton Industries CEO Chris Ober. “And here's the best news: You don't have to wait for the extravaganza. You can come on in and apply in person, or you can go on the website www.mortonind.com/careers and put your application in there, and somebody will contact you very quickly.”

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Joe Deacon
Greater Peoria Economic Development Council CEO Chris Setti, center, discusses their upcoming hiring extravaganza as Morton Chamber of Commerce executive director Leigh Ann Brown, Discover Peoria's JD Dalfonso, Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Joshua Gunn, and EDC Director of Workforce Solutions Kari Rauh listen during a news conference Monday in Morton.

Chris Setti, the CEO of the EDC, said that although the latest unemployment report for the region showed a dramatic increase in the workforce between May and June, a sizeable gap remains and businesses are eager to fill their vacancies.

“The hiring needs of companies like UnityPoint, OSF, and Morton Industries aren't unique to them,” said Setti. “They all have these issues that we're seeing across the country. This is just something we're trying to do to help address it here.”

Businesses are looking to fill a wide range of openings, from entry level vacancies to skilled labor, administrative, and professional positions. Many of the participating companies are offering hiring incentives, such as sign-on and referral bonuses.

“What we see right now is that there is a lack of applicants on kind of the entry level, as well as on the highly skilled side of the workforce, and currently, we have a lot of applicants that kind of fall into the middle,” said Courtney Newgard, UnityPoint’s Regional Manager of Talent Acquisition.

“So what we're looking for is individuals that are really anxious to be able to learn and grow and develop. We firmly believe that there is opportunity for us to be able to take someone who's got the right attitude and believes in our culture and the work that we're doing, and be able to kind of give them the skills and assets that they need to be able to become successful in their roles.”

Sarah Overton, the Chief Nursing Officer for OSF Multispecialty Services, said that in addition to nurses and clinical workers, they are looking for contact center agents and front office assistants in particular.

“I think some of the misconceptions about OSF HealthCare is we’re only here for nursing and clinical. We have tons of entry level positions,” said Overton, noting they are doing what they can to entice potential new hires.

“We're being very aggressive with our campaigning, with sign-on bonuses, referral bonuses, as well as our minimum wage increase that's hitting in September, which I think will really help a lot of our workforce get back into the work environment.”

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Joe Deacon
Morton Industries President and CEO Chris Ober discusses the company's participation in the upcoming Greater Peoria Hiring Extravaganza during a news conference Monday. Ober says his company is looking to fill about 70 open positions.

Ober said before the COVID-19 pandemic, they would typically have no more than 20 or 30 openings at a particular time, and now the vacancies have more than doubled.

“The biggest needs in the company right now are what I would call general labor, people coming in who want to learn a skill in manufacturing,” said Ober, adding that almost 60% of their new employees earn a promotion within two years.

“We have many of our people who have gotten up to be in leadership or supervisory positions. Really, we like to hire people that are going to come in, have a great attitude and want to learn. Then once they get promoted, they can fill into our leadership roles and really contribute to a successful company.”

The nonprofit Center for Prevention of Abuse is participating in the extravaganza as a way to grow its staff of about 120 people.

“We have six positions open and getting ready to add a few more,” said CEO Carol Merna. “When you want to go to work for a nonprofit that has a mission like ours – to help people live free from violence and abuse – you are doing that with purpose; there's intent in that. So it's people that want to make that kind of impact on their community and on society. We want to make sure that people know that we have these positions available, and then we'd like to add them to our work family.”

The EDC is coordinating the hiring extravaganza in partnership with the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce, Discover Peoria, Goodwill, and the East Peoria, Morton, Pekin, and Washington chambers of commerce. Setti said they developed the idea after learning a similar event was held in Tempe, Ariz.

“We're hopeful that we don't have to have another hiring extravaganza, because we're hoping that we can get over this hump that a lot of our employers are feeling,” he said. “We know people want to get back to work, and there's some really great opportunities here, whether it's in the hospitality industry, whether it's in manufacturing, whether it's in health care. We have a lot of great things to offer to our community.”

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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.