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MASON CITY | Referral bonuses, social media, working with high schools and colleges, specialized recruitment agencies and opening additional facilities elsewhere — North Iowa businesses are utilizing a variety of strategies to fill their work force needs.

"It’s a lot broader than it used to be," said Jackie Luecht, director of human resources for Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa, Mason City. "You have to have multi-venues to place your jobs."

She said the hospital is consistently working to fill over 100 jobs. The positions range from entry level to doctors and include part time and full time.

"The entry level positions are a little harder (to fill)," said Luecht noting that there are many entry level positions open in the area. "How do we differentiate ourselves from everybody else?"

She said Mercy usually tries to promote its benefits and what it's like to work in health care.

Other employment strategies include career fairs, advertising in newspapers, radio, social media, websites and billboards. Association websites or websites that cater to certain careers are often utilized for more specialized positions, Luecht said.

"That's been a good outreach for us," she said.

Referral bonuses for physicians have also been used.

When open positions can't be filled as quickly as Mercy needs them to be, the hospital will sometimes hire temporary workers or "travelers," such as nurses.

"We do have travelers on occasion when we feel like we need to ensure we have the right staffing mix," Luecht said. "It’s usually a temporary solution."

Mercy also tries to promote a relationship with high schools and colleges by visiting classrooms, encouraging job shadowing, paid and unpaid internships and hosting a micro camp for students.

Here is a look at how other area employers seek to fill job openings.

Cambrex Charles City

Cambrex Charles City works closely with community colleges and technical colleges.

Brittany Sickels, director for human resources, said the partnership is new and involves the different groups working on things such as what type of a learning curve there is from a production standpoint.

The pharmaceutical company currently employs around 300 people and will be hiring 40 to 50 more due to an expansion project. Jobs range for operators on the production floor to chemists.

Sickels said Cambrex also uses recruitment agencies for specialized jobs and relies on career fairs and hiring events at the plant itself.

Making job listings easily accessible online and using social media are also important.

Cambrex Charles City is also working to improve its name recognition beyond the Charles City area since the Avenue of the Saints could easily draw people from other areas, Sickels said.

"I think one of the disadvantages we have is we’re far enough away from Mason City that people don’t know who we are," she said. "From a regional perspective, people don’t recognize our name."

Rembrandt Enterprises

Rembrandt Enterprises, based out of Spirit Lake, said letting people know about the company and expansion plans are part of its strategy.

The company announced earlier this year it plans to build a $92 million large-scale egg-processing plant in Winnebago County that will create 197 full-time jobs. It already has an egg-laying facility near Thompson that employs 134.

"There’s no one way to recruit any more," said Hans Paulson, head of human resources for Rembrandt Foods. "You have to use multiple avenues."

The company is using traditional methods of newspaper listings, job postings in local stores and job fairs, but is also turning to other strategies such as social media, two staffing companies and email blasts.

Paulson said the latter methods will hopefully draw people from outside of Winnebago County. Due to low unemployment in the area, he said, Rembrandt has to look beyond the Thompson area.

While the company is looking at more technology-driven hiring strategies, Paulson said one of the best methods has been networking and its own employees. It offers a referral bonus for current employees and sign up bonus for new hires.

"You’re not going to recommend a friend unless you like it there," he said.

Winnebago Industries

In order to meet its labor needs, Winnebago Industries, Forest City, is also looking beyond its own backyard.

The Forest City plant currently employs around 2,400 people, while satellite locations in Charles City and Lake Mills employ 200 and 65, respectively, said Larry Kluckhohn, director of personnel. A third satellite location in Waverly was announced earlier this month and is expected to include around 70 jobs.

The company currently has 125 full-time open positions and is looking to hire up to 100 people for summer part-time work.

"Obviously the competition in this area is pretty fierce these days," said Bret Woodson, vice president of administration. "Everyone is competing for the same work force, so it’s important that we do some of these creative things."

Some of those things include increasing the starting wage to $14 per hour; career fairs; advertising with newspapers, radio and TV; in-house training; promoting its wages and benefits; listing job openings online and increasing the passenger capacity for a bus that runs from Mason City to Forest City, Kluckhohn said.

The bus capacity recently increased from 18 to 31 passengers. Kluckhohn said it averages 18 to 22 people each day and costs $2 one way.

The company also does recruiting at Iowa and Minnesota colleges, especially for skilled positions such as maintenance and drafting.

"That's worked out well for us," Kluckhohn said.

McKesson Corp.

McKesson Corp. plans to open a distribution center and warehouse in Clear Lake that will create 164 jobs.

It released the following statement regarding filling the positions.

"We have started our search process for key leadership roles and once those are filled, we will begin posting and interviewing for a multitude of positions, including supervisors, team leaders, inventory analysts, human resources associates and warehouse associates," said Kristin Hunter, senior manager of corporate media relations.

"Anyone interested in job openings at the facility can stay up-to-date on available positions by visiting our career website on McKesson.com."

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