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Help Wanted: Cabot Creamery looks to attract workers

Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 6:31 PM EDT
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CABOT, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont, like many parts of the country, is facing a workforce crisis that was exacerbated by the pandemic. Vermont manufacturers are among the sectors struggling the most. As part of a new series, we’re looking at some of the high-demand jobs and how employers are changing their recruiting strategies. Our Kayla Martin stopped by the Cabot Creamery factory, which is among those with the help wanted sign out.

Tucked into the small town of Cabot among the hillside farms of central Vermont is a factory that proudly produces some of the best cheese in the world.

“It’s very satisfying to see the end product on the shelves at the end of the day,” said Nick Managan, the company’s marketing manager.

To meet the nationwide demand for their products, Cabot operates day and night. But like other manufacturers, Managan says they are struggling to find enough workers to keep the production line running. “A lot of companies like us have been very fortunate to be a little busier since the pandemic started, and there’s just more work to do, and not necessarily more people to do it,” he said.

Cabot currently has 70 positions available across Vermont. Most of them at their Cabot campus. Once on the job, a typical production worker suits up to prevent any lint or hair from their clothing. They have to do morning stretches before they start work. “Just to prevent any sprains and strains and things like that,” explained Shaun Herman, a line leader at the plant.

Another way they keep staff limber is by having line workers rotate positions every 30 minutes. Fred Hart has been a cheesemaker at Cabot for 37 years, shoveling cheese curds and other tasks. Making cheese is hard work and the Cabot plant rarely rests. “We work 7 days a week, cows keep milking 7 days,” Hart said.

Managan says the difference between being able to run a shift or not could be just one person. “We do have some challenges right now. We need to send the milk where we can work with it, so sometimes that means rerouting milk. It’s not as profitable for farmer-owners when we have to do that,” he said.

Some of the currently available jobs include cut and wrap crew members, production supervisors, and production operators. A lot of manufacturers have three shifts to keep production going 24/7. Managan says the second shift -- around 3 to 11 p.m. -- is the hardest to fill when so many other places are hiring, and that workers from out of town face a lengthy commute. “I think some people overlook it,” he said.

Managan says they have taken steps to attract more workers, like wages starting at $17.75 an hour. Other incentives include a 401K match, child care assistance, and a $2,500 bonus for second and third shifts.

State labor officials say manufacturing is one of the industries with the most urgent need for help. Part of the problem -- as in many sectors of the Vermont economy -- is an aging workforce.

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