Polk County manufacturing plant struggles to hire new workers amid unemployment crisis

Polk County

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – 8 On Your Side’s recent coverage of Polk County’s unemployment crisis caught the attention of leadership at a Lakeland-based aluminum extrusion plant.

“We were all watching WFLA inform us about a crisis over in Davenport where there was unemployment that was unheard of,” said Guy Callahan, the environmental health and safety manager at Keymark Corporation of Florida.

Polk County has Tampa Bay’s highest unemployment rate at more than 13%, according to the latest data from the state of Florida.

Eastern Polk County has been hit especially hard due to tourism and its proximity to Orlando-area theme parks.

“Prior to the pandemic, I don’t feel like it was hard to fill these positions. It’s been since COVID, I’d say,” said Michaela Wren, employee development at Keymark.

Employees at Keymark Corporation shape and ship hundreds of thousands of pounds of aluminum, every day.

The plant has a wide array of job openings right now.

“Anywhere from our maintenance division – that is skilled labor – and we have non-skilled labor. We have our paint line. We have packing, shipping, extrusion which is the king of what we do,” said Callahan.

“If you don’t have a skill set to work here, we will train you. We do on the job training,” said Wren.

Callahan, and others at the plant, told 8 On Your Side the pandemic has made it difficult to recruit employees, who are given on-the-job training for most positions.

“With the different stimulus packages and the unemployment benefits, they feel that’s a cushion. But that’s going to end up running out. That’s why our jobs that we’re offering are full-time, permanent positions,” said Callahan.

Callahan said if enough people from the Davenport area apply, the company will provide transportation to the plant.

If you’re interested in applying, you can visit Keymark Corporation’s website or visit in person at 2540 Knights Station Road in Lakeland.

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