PLEASANT PRAIRIE — NOW HIRING. HELP WANTED. Signs that could post outside most any business in Southeast Wisconsin right now as the economy looks to bounce back.
From small businesses to major corporations, companies are struggling to find workers, including ULINE in Kenosha County that aims to hire 500 people right now.
The April jobs report for the U.S. fell far short of expectation. Economists predicted 1 million new jobs and a drop in the unemployment rate to 5.8 percent. Instead, the American economy added only 266,000 jobs as the unemployment rate ticked up to 6.1 percent.
There are plenty of jobs available, just not enough people taking them. It’s prompting companies to ramp up their outreach as well as their pay and benefits to attract the workers they need.
“Here in Southeast Wisconsin, we are in need of 500 employees. About 300 here at the corporate office and then 200 at our warehousing operation,” said Gil DeLasAlas. He’s the Chief Human Resources Officer at Uline. The Pleasant Prairie-based company is easily visible from the freeway. With three warehouses exceeding 1 million square feet.
The family-owned company got its start specializing in shipping supplies like tape and boxes but now sells more than 38,500 items to businesses from its 811-page catalog.
“Every one of those products is in inventory in every warehouse,” DeLasAlas explained. “Our promise and value to our customers is next-day delivery. So, if you order by 6 today, you get it tomorrow. So if you run a business it’s great, because we can become your just-in-time solution.”
With the explosion in online retailing and COVID pivots, the business is hungry for growth. As restaurants, for example, transitioned to take-out business, ULINE saw a big surge in packaging orders.
“They couldn’t have diners in their stores, so things like takeout bags and containers, another segment that grew quite a bit for us,” DeLasAlas recalled.
Luke Willkomm grew up just down the road from the sprawling campus but admits, “I never knew what ULINE did for years and years and years. It wasn’t until I stepped foot in the building.” Now, the recent UW Whitewater graduate is in a warehouse management trainee position with the company. He said ULINE’s focus on his professional growth is what attracted him to the job.
“For me, I wanted to work hard. I wanted to find a job that valued people who work hard, and that’s exactly what ULINE is,” Willkomm said.
Beyond that, ULINE has chef-prepared meals in its cafeterias, full health club facilities with trainers on site. There’s a three-mile walking path outside the meticulously manicured grounds. Employee profit-sharing that results in annual bonuses in the thousands on top of starting wages north of 20 dollars an hour for warehouse positions. All that, and they’re still struggling to find workers.
“We expect that once some of the unemployment benefits run out that there will be a flood of candidates coming back into the market,” DeLasAlas predicted.
Employers are beginning to express frustration with the most recent federal stimulus package that extended enhanced unemployment benefits into the fall. Some feel potential employees are sitting out a return to the workforce.
Republican State Lawmakers are pushing to reinstate a requirement that Wisconsinites on unemployment demonstrate they’re actively looking for work. That could come as soon as later this month. “We’re ready,” DeLasAlas said. “We’re ready for when folks want to come work.”
ULINE is holding a job fair for its Kenosha operations on Wednesday, May 19. For more information, click here.