LIMA — Ever since Oscar Williams started working at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in 2005, people keep asking him the same question.
“A lot of people have been asking me, ‘When are you going to hire out there?’” said Williams, a member of the UAW civil rights team at the plant. “It’s been a rough couple of years lately. But now, we’re starting to hire, and we just want to show people what they need to do.”
Wednesday morning marked the first of several recruiting sessions for the government-owned tank plant, which is seeing its biggest hiring effort since a 2007 project. General Dynamics Land Systems is recruiting 400 qualified new employees between the first quarter of 2019 and mid-2020, said Dave Leonhardt, manager of human resources.
More sessions will be planned in January. Potential employees can sign up at OMJAllen.com/gdls or by calling 419-999-0360. All meetings will be held at the Ohio Means Jobs Allen County office, 1501 S. Dixie Road, Lima.
Wednesday’s recruiting was heavy on welders, with 100 needed. The session at Ohio Means Jobs-Allen County was heavy on welders, with many of the 55 people attending looking for welding jobs. Leonhardt said the company needs all kinds of workers as it ramps up for continued Stryker vehicle upgrades and upgrades to 135 Abrams tanks.
That means the plant, which has 580 now, needs to grow its workforce in a hurry. It’s looking for welders, assemblers, CNC workers, plant engineers, tool engineers, process engineers and quality engineers and all levels of management up to production supervisor.
“We’re excited about that. We’ve been preparing for this for a long time,” Leonhardt said.
Most of the jobs pay $19 to $20 per hour, said Joe Patton, director of Allen County Jobs and Family Services. Ohio Means Jobs Allen County, which is a division of JFS, is working with the JSMC to try to attract young talent.
“We want to capture the youth who are home for the holidays,” Patton said. “This is a very good opportunity.”
Steve Musser, workforce development supervisor for OMJ, said the agency is “essentially going to be an extension of their human resources team.” The county agency actively contacted people who fit General Dynamics Land Systems’ needs to see if they’d attend the sessions.
They’ve already contacted vocational educators at Apollo Career Center in Lima, Vantage Career Center in Van Wert and Hobart Institute in Troy, hoping to attract young welders. They’ve also reached out to colleges with ROTC, since ultimately workers support the military.
“I really enjoy what I do,” said Williams, who test-drives tanks on the plant’s 369-acre property. “Most of us really respect the military. We want to make sure they all get back home safely. That’s what we really do.”