ATTLEBORO — Local businesses of all kinds, high and low tech, are looking for workers.
One them, which is more high tech, is in Attleboro Industrial Park at 107 Frank Mossberg Drive — CMT Engineered Syntactic Systems.
It’s tucked away at the end of the road doing its thing quietly and very successfully.
CMT was just presented with a 2022 “Making it in Massachusetts” award by the Massachusetts Legislative Manufacturing Caucus.
The company was founded in 1998 in Dedham by Tony Colageo, Tom Murray and Noel Tessier (CMT).
Murray said the name also stands for Composite Materials Technology and he joked that his children are named Catherine, Meghan and Thomas, so the choices are plentiful.
But the firm needs six to seven employees who can work in production and engineering.
The company currently has 63 employees so there’s about a 10% deficit in the workforce, he said.
“Our biggest challenge is people.”
CMT has been having such a hard time recruiting qualified people that state Rep. Jim Hawkins, D-Attleboro, arranged a tour of the company on Friday for Rep. Josh Cutler, D-Pembroke, chair of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development in the state Legislature.
Hawkins said CMT is doing “big things” in Attleboro.
“Manufacturing has not left the city. It’s not jewelry anymore, it’s something else,” he said.
Terrence Woldorf, managing director for the company, said most people have used something the firm has manufactured.
“Most people have not gone through a day without touching something we made,” he said.
The company makes an array of plastic materials, from the kind used to package food in grocery stores to super high-tech materials that can maintain buoyancy and withstand enormous pressure in deep sea submarines.
One of those constructed with that material is the mini-submarine Alvin used by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod.
Murray said Alvin was recently upgraded to withstand pressure from 4,500 meters to 6,500 meters under water.
CMT manufactures plastics that are buoyant and strong enough to withstand pressure up to 11,000 meters, which is basically the bottom of the ocean, he said.
That includes some autonomous vehicles which were involved in looking for airliners that went down in the ocean. One was an Air France airliner that crashed in the Atlantic on its way to Paris in 2009 and another was from Malaysia Airlines which went down in the South China Sea on its way to Beijing in 2014.
The company also manufactures battery packs for electric vehicles, which are essentially fire-proof so that if one bursts into flames the fire is less likely to spread.
And the company specializes in creating thin and clear plastics that package fruit and vegetables in supermarkets.
“There’s a huge market for that right now,” Murray said.
The thin packaging is something that was not possible with injection molding, a more low-tech method to form different plastic products, he said.
Less plastic used means less pollution, Murray said.
Right now the company is looking for fabricating and engineering applicants.
Those applying for fabricating jobs should have a background in vocational-technical training and those applying for engineering jobs should have engineering degrees.
Murray said the company is looking especially for those with degrees in mechanical engineering.
Much of the work requires close attention to detail, he said.
Cutler said state lawmakers may be able to help with training grants.
“We have workforce training grants,” he said. “The challenge for us is to make sure to connect the dots and get the money down here to Attleboro.”
While the jewelry industry left the city decades ago, there is still a lot of manufacturing in the city, Hawkins said.
“It’s here in Attleboro,” he said. “The problem is nobody knows it’s here.”
Another company is Reeves Co., which has a plant just off North Avenue in Attleboro.
Reeves, which has done business in Attleboro since 1947, specializes in the manufacturing of name badges.
Vice President Preston Stevenson said his company has been looking for two additional employees for about three weeks.
He said the company has about 18 employees and needs two more.
“It’s not easy,” he said noting that the company has tried using Indeed and other online employment websites.
“We’d make appointments with people and a lot don’t show up,” Stevenson said.
And sometimes those who showed interest don’t return calls.
Stevenson said word-of-mouth used to take care of their hiring needs, but that’s not true anymore.
At Technical Hardfacing and Machining Inc. on Extension Street, owner Casey Holt said the company is always looking for Class A machinists.
He said the company finally found a skilled person who will start next week, but the firm needs two more.
Holt said finding a Class A machinist is as hard as finding a 200 carat diamond.
“You might find one in 20 years,” he said. “They are very rare in this geography.”
He echoed Stevenson’s complaint that sometimes appointments for interviews are made, but the person doesn’t show up.
Holt also uses online employee search websites like Indeed to find workers.
THM makes parts for the oil and gas industry.
He said to become a Class A machinist usually takes about 10 years of training.
In lieu of a Class A machinist, the company sometimes takes a CNC machinist. CNC stands for Computerized Numerical Control.
He said those people can be trained over the years to become a Class A machinist.
Part of the problem is that high schools are pushing students toward college and not toward the trades which are in desperate need of skilled people.
He said he works a lot with Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School in Fall River to tap into some skilled high school students.
And Holt said he’s working with state agencies to help with training individuals.
There’s a similar story at Larson Tool & Stamping on Olive Street. The company has about 70 fulltime employees and five temps.
“If you’ve got five people in your back pocket I wouldn’t mind having them,” owner Bill Larson said.
He said the company needs machine operators and an industrial maintenance employee. Both have special skills that are hard to find.
“It’s just such a challenging market for people right now,” he said.
The lack of people is bewildering, Larson said.
And the need for workers is constant. Larson said he’s been looking to fill vacancies for about 18 months.
Some people leave or get promoted which requires constant back-filling and that’s the tough part, he said.
“You bring someone in and you lose someone else,” he said. “We’re constantly back-filling.”
The need began when the company got busy during the pandemic. The company was up and running for the entire time.
Larson said his firm has used online recruiting websites and temp agencies to find employees, but with limited success.
And the company has implemented a referral bonus provision for current employees who recommend someone they think might fit in.
The company has had some success recruiting out of Diman Vocational like Holt at THM, but there are still five full-time jobs to be filled.
And the employee shortage affects the less skilled positions available in the hospitality industry.
At Russell Morin Catering and Events, help is always needed, according to human resources manager Valerie Carroll.
“It has been a challenge to try to recruit talent,” she said. “There are not as many people out there who are willing to work entry level jobs.”
And companies like Amazon make it especially hard to recruit when they offer sign-on bonuses of $1,000 and pay above the minimum wage, she said.
“To a wage worker that’s a significant bonus,” she said. “It’s hard to get entry level workers at this time.”
The Morin companies are well known in Attleboro and the region.
All told, there are three operations employing about 400 people.
Morin’s Catering employs about 325 during the peak season which is in the warmer months.
The catering operation has an office in Newport as well.
And Morin’s Diner has been doing business in downtown Attleboro since 1911.
Carroll said the catering end is heading into what’s known as its slow season when fewer employees are needed.
But the ebb and flow often works out for the company which takes on a lot of college students during the spring and summer.
And she said some restaurants are badly affected.
“Some restaurants don’t open on some days because they don’t have enough staff,” Carroll said. “You see it all across the hospitality industry.”