Thu Sep 21, 2017
Author: Scott Hansen
The labor shortage in the RV industry has affected virtually every manufacturer, supplier, distributor and dealer throughout the country.
Businesses are having to come up with new and innovative ways to find workers to make sure their business stays in the black.
Cleer Vision, an RV windows manufacturer and supplier, has found a way that has worked for them. But there’s still a long way to go.
Since June, Cleer Vision has driven a bus up to South Bend, Indiana, where it has picked up people willing to work that wouldn’t be able to travel to Elkhart otherwise. The workers then put in a full day’s work at Cleer Vision and are returned by bus to South Bend.
Cleer Vision Vice President of Sales Don Hamm says the program has been fairly successful, but there is still a lot more they need to do to get the workforce they need.
“It remains a challenge. We are trying just about everything we can to get people and to keep them. We can put 40 people on the bus, but we normally have six or seven per day. These people are trained in the work force. But we could use another 20 people and that bus would hold them if we could.”
The bus ride from South Bend to Elkhart is about 35-40 minutes one way and it’s something that the company is going to continue to do for the long-term because it’s been a way to increase the amount of work that is being done while helping people out in the area with jobs, Hamm says.
However, the industry has a long road ahead of it, especially in the Elkhart area, to solve the labor shortage problems. Hamm says the causes are the interest and demand for recreational vehicles that seems to only be going up with no ceiling in sight.
“The obvious cause (for the labor shortage) is the OEMs are really bumping up production and the demand for that level and the rapid expansion in the industry is huge,” Hamm says. “All of the major players in the business – all of them are expanding in some way. In 2018, the industry is expected to ship 500,000 units and it just keeps going up. It’s awesome and great, but it presents some new challenges.”
However, the fix to these new challenges are more than just awareness and training programs, Hamm says. This is because if all of the positions that need to be filled in northeast Indiana were, in fact, filled, there would need to be more space and infrastructure to support the influx of thousands of more people.
“The saying is ‘If you need a job, come to Elkhart and get it,’” Hamm says. “As an industry now, we need to get together and say ‘How do we attract people here?’ Then, if we get the people here, great, but we have to have the infrastructure to support it. Schools, places for them to live, we need that to support it in the long-term. In the short-term, we need to continue to do the unique and innovative things that we’re trying to do.”
Hamm says the bus program will be in place indefinitely, because it is bringing needed workers to Cleer Vision and it’s important for the company to show they will help people get to work as well.
The long-term goals are to get to a number of employees and workers that can turn out the ever-increasing products that are on demand in the industry. But you can’t reach the long-term goals without meeting the short-term ones first. And that is simply keeping the employees where they are and trying to find new and more creative ways to find others.