Hundreds of jobs are available right now in manufacturing, the largest industry segment in Columbus. And if prospective workers have a track record of reliability, employers are prepared to provide the training necessary to launch a career.

It’s a candidate’s soft skills — like a good attendance record — that employers value highly when filling jobs in manufacturing production.

Quality Machine and Tool Works Inc., 1201 Michigan St., participated in Tuesday’s Republic job fair at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center, hoping to fill production machine operator vacancies, controller Rick Malanoski said.

While experience in a similar position is always beneficial, the contract machining firm offers training to individuals, he said.

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“We look for someone who will be there everyday on time. And if you’re there, we can train you to be a good machine operator,” Malanoski said. “If you’re not there, it just doesn’t matter.”

For entry-level positions, the company pays employees $11 an hour, but overall pay is dependent on an individual’s experience level. Evaluations are given after 90 days, 9 months and 15 months that can merit a pay increase, said Deck McManaway, production manager for the company.

Boyer Machine and Tool, a Computer Numeric Control machining firm, went to the job fair seeking to fill operator, machinist and other positions at its facility located at 1080 S. Gladstone Ave. due to an increased demand.

Stability is a key characteristic a job seeker should possess, as well as a willingness to make a long-term commitment and go through training, said David Boyer, president of the company.

Other skills also are critical, Boyer said.

“Math skills are big, communication skills, attention to detail and being on time,” he said. “Then we can show you how (to do the job) if you don’t have the skills that we need,” Boyer said. “We’re just looking for quality people that are looking for a steady place to work.”

Boyer said the company doesn’t have a posted pay range for the openings currently available but will base compensation on experience and work history.

“It depends a lot on previous experience,” he said.

Jason Hester, president of the Greater Columbus Economic Development Corp., said the local manufacturing sector continues to be strong, noting that up to 38 percent of all jobs in Bartholomew County are in manufacturing. That puts the county in the top 2 percent nationally, he said.

“There is a great diversity of jobs locally,” Hester said.

Competition to fill manufacturing jobs locally will increase after Faurecia opens its new $64 million manufacturing facility on Tuesday, with the start of full production in January 2017. The expansion is expected to add 131 employees to Faurecia’s Columbus workforce by December 2017.

Recognizing employers’ needs, the economic development corporation announced last month that it will implement a talent-attraction campaign by year’s end to benefit Columbus employers. In collaboration with community partners, an online portal will be created and a marketing campaign launched to promote Columbus as a great place to live and work.

More than manufacturing

Two-dozen employers in retail, home health care and other business sectors were working to identify prospects during the job fair.

Among them was Kroger, which works to assess job applicants’ skills and try to find them a position that will be a good fit for the company and employee.

The grocery store is seeking to fill 20 to 40 positions in its 125,000-square-foot Marketplace store, which opened last month on North National Road, said L.J. Gearhart, an assistant store manager who oversees human resources.

Gearhart said the store is hiring for front-end, produce, meat, deli, seafood and other department positions, noting that the company offers a starting wage of $8.50 an hour, with an additional 75-cent premium for employees who work overnight.

One worker’s search

Seymour resident Kathy Cain came to the job fair with one goal: To find a job.

Cain was among about 250 job-seekers looking for an opportunity during the career fair.

Cain, who was laid off last month after working as a temporary employee, said she has about 25 years of social service experience and obtained her master’s degree last year.

She said she has continued to apply at different places, but has had no luck so far.

“I’ve been told that I’m overqualified with my master’s degree,” Cain said.

On the flip side, Cain has been told she doesn’t have enough relevant experience for the types of jobs she has been speaking with, she said.

The mother of two said she wants “to get her foot in the door and move up” within a company.

Cain would like to land a job in the human resources field, and said she remained positive that the job fair would lead to a good opportunity.

Her message to prospective employers: “Let me pursue my dream … and give back to the community.”

By the numbers

24: Number of employers participating in Tuesday’s Republic fall career fair at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center

250: Estimated number of job seekers

5: Number of hours that companies spent talking with prospective candidates.

Workforce snapshot

Bartholomew continues to rank among the state’s 92 counties with the lowest levels of unemployment.

With an August unemployment rate of 3.6 percent, only Dubois (3.3 percent), Hamilton (3.4 percent) and Boone (3.5 percent) had a lower rate.

Bartholomew County has 44,355 people working from a workforce of 45,993, which leaves the number of people seeking jobs at 1,638 as of August.