Michigan Sugar Dealing with Worker Shortage

Published online: Oct 31, 2019 News Robert Creenan
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Source: Huron Daily Tribune

Michigan Sugar is facing a seasonal worker shortage during its most productive time of the year.

Lynette Keller, the executive director of human resources for Michigan Sugar, said the company usually hires 1,100 seasonal workers for the campaign season, where some harvest sugarbeets while others process them into products like dried beet pulp, sugarbeet lime, beet molasses and pressed sugarbeet pulp.

They start hiring seasonal workers in August and September and keep them on through March as part of their campaign, which as Keller put it is when the first beet is sliced for processing to when the last beet is sliced.

Keller said the number of seasonal workers Michigan Sugar has statewide at the moment is in flux, but it is well below its usual 1,100. She said that most of the seasonal workers the company hires are local and live near one of their factories or piling grounds, though it will sometimes get workers from other areas.

Job applications are found online, at the factories, temp recruiting agencies and Michigan Works offices.

“The majority of people we get will go to a factory, fill out an application, and drop it off there,” Keller said.

She said she believes Michigan Sugar is having trouble filling out those positions either because there is a labor shortage, or the people the company is trying to attract can work but don't want to.

“Every HR professional will tell you that staffing is the biggest challenge,” Keller said.

Michigan Sugar also considered advertising job openings through Workamper News, a job resource site for people who live in recreational vehicles, but Keller said the company was not able to due to improper timing.

“The agency we’re using had success with that in other locations,” Keller said. “We had next year in mind.”

Keller said that if someone signs up as a seasonal worker one year then comes back the following year, there are opportunities for other positions where workers can get greater earning potential.

Michigan Sugar grows sugarbeets on over 1,000 farms on 160,000 acres of land in 20 counties.

The company has processing factories in Sebewaing, Caro, Bay City and Croswell, along with three piling stations in Huron County.

Open positions with Michigan Sugar can be found at www.michigansugar.com/about/careers.