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Business Extra: Large local businesses discuss state of hiring new employees

  • Lift workers check in skiers at Crotched Mountain in Bennington Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Lift worker Rudy Schnare checks in skiers at Crotched Mountain in Bennington Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/18/2021 4:54:05 PM

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a record number of Granite Staters applying for unemployment benefits.

The most recent numbers provided by New Hampshire Employment Security for the week ending Jan. 9, showed 3,067 initial claims by residents applying for benefits, while the number of continued claims stood at 27,283 for the week ending Jan. 2.

Under the the most recent stimulus bill, which totaled $900 billion, the unemployed sector will receive up to an additional $300 per week from unemployment benefits through March 14.

Locally, among some of the bigger employers in the region, the current state of hiring, pool of potential candidates and what the future looks like on the employment front varies from sector to sector.


Outside of filling needed positions, Laura Gingras, Vice President of Philanthropy and Community Relations at MCH, said there wasn’t a lot of hiring happening at Peterborough-based community hospital from March until August, when hiring resumed on a larger scale.

“There is a natural attrition of employees, and along with replacement positions, we have added positions with specific skill sets as the needs arise,” she said.

Gingras said there is currently about 60 open positions at the hospital and encouraged people to visit the MCH website for a complete list of available positions that cross many departments.

The biggest issue is one that is faced by hospitals and healthcare facilities around the country, Gingras said.

“Our biggest challenge is recruitment of clinical positions, specifically RNs, MAs, LPNs, and medical providers,” Gingras said. “We have many entry level positions open as well and recently, we implemented a new starting wage of $15 per hour. There is a national shortage of health care workers at every level and we are not alone with this challenge.”

Gingras said, including per diem employees, MCH currently has 530 employees, down about 30 positions from fully staffed in normal times.

Currently, MilliporeSigma in Jaffrey is seeking to fill 275 positions, across a number of departments at the facility, by 2022.

“MilliporeSigma in Jaffrey is hiring for a number of positions, spanning from assembler and technical operator roles to IT technicians, production, quality leadership and engineering roles. Other positions include assembler operators, senior manufacturing operators, chemical operators, quality technicians, process engineers and automation and robotics technicians,” said Karen Tiano, company spokesperson for MilliporeSigma.

Working directly with companies that are in the area of producing vaccines had allowed for MilliporeSigma to expand even before the pandemic, which has only accelerated that demand.

“Before the pandemic and still today, our Jaffrey site was and still is producing filtration devices and membrane products. These products are used by biopharmaceutical companies to manufacture vaccines and lifesaving therapies. The devices we make here in Jaffrey remove virus, purify contaminants and bacteria and clarify protein streams throughout many steps in the biomanufacturing process. These products are part of the standard template for making vaccines, so our hiring boom is a reflection of the demand for vaccines,” Tiano said.

Bill Peterson, vice president of human resources of Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington, said currently the facility has three openings to add to its workforce of about 150.

What has allowed Monadnock Paper Mills to withstand the up and downs over its 201 years is a workforce that stays for many years, sometimes many decades at the facility.

“Folks, when they come here, they tend to stay,” Peterson said. But this year, like others, have included some retirements and filling those jobs has proven a little more arduous.

Bonnie MacPherson, communications manager at Crotched Mountain Ski & Ride, said so far the seasonal operation has been able to function well with the staff they brought on board.

MacPherson said she couldn’t get into specifics as to how many employees Crotched has this year compared to last, but said they are still hiring and for a variety of duties.

“We still have positions open,” MacPherson said, adding the full list is on the Crotched website.

Prospective employees

While Millipore is seeking employees, there have been obstacles to attracting people to the region.

“Rising housing costs in communities across the country have forced our employees to live farther and farther away from our facilities, resulting in long commute times that have negative consequences for our employees, our operations and our communities,” Tiano said. Adding, MilliporeSigma strongly supports policies that seek to make housing more affordable, available and accessible for both current employees and those they seek to hire.

Peterson said Monadnock Paper Mills is “always looking for good people.” It’s just a matter of getting them to apply.

“The pool of applicants after the stimulus all but dried up,” Peterson said. The added unemployment benefits was also another reason Peterson felt he wasn’t getting as many applications as he once was.

“At one point I was getting one or two applications a month,” Peterson said. “When it used to be five or six a week.” Currently, Peterson said he gets about one to two a week.

He said hiring and finding someone who will stay has been harder.

“Because you don’t have that pool to draw from,” he said.

But for those seeking employment, Peterson said the company can offer enticing reasons to join.

“The good thing for us is that our benefits and compensation packages are hard to top,” he said.

Since March

While many industries were forced to lay off employees and discontinue hiring processes, MilliporeSigma has been on the opposite side of that equation. In 2020, the Jaffrey company brought on 150 employees and currently employs 1,140.

Hiring is an ongoing process at MilliporeSigma and Tiano said the challenges presented by the onset of the pandemic has not made it any easier to fill open positions.

“The past few years have proven challenging for hiring, given low unemployment rates in New Hampshire. Overall, the pandemic certainly made it even more challenging,” Tiano said. “Since COVID-19 hit, we have had to look at alternative recruitment methods, including drive-through, on-site job fairs, virtual job fairs.” We also increased our advertising targeting markets where we were hiring.”

Peterson said that prior to the onset of the pandemic “we were hoping it would be one of our best years.” Things slowed down at various times, but they were able to keep employees on the payroll because of their ability to be flexible.

“They’re good about saying where else do you need me,” Peterson said.

In May, MCH announced it was furloughing 100 employees directly due to the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. As the pandemic forced hospital officials to shutdown a number of elective functions, it resulted in major financial losses that initially were projected to be around $3 to $4 million per month through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. But as various departments began to reopen in June, MCH saw a rebound in the bottom line, as well as financial help through CARES Act, and that reduced those losses to less than $2 million a month.

Gingras said the majority of furloughed employees were brought back in early August, while 21 employees were laid off.

“We have been adding positions as the needs arise in the organization, based in large part on our patient volume,” Gingras said.

Looking ahead

While there is a crisis surrounding finding the adequate numbers for MCH, Gingras is hopeful.

“The pandemic has certainly created challenges, but we are forging ahead. We had a full new employee orientations for the past few weeks and we are encouraged that we will find the right people to join our team.,” she said.

Monadnock Community Hospital President and CEO Cyndee McGuire said working at the community hospital, which has adapted to the current situation is a reason for inspiration.

“Health care is a very rewarding profession, especially in a close knit community like the Monadnock Region where our staff are caring for neighbors and friends,” McGuire said. “The pandemic is challenging, but there is an excitement in being a part of new approaches to treatment and care for our patients. I continue to be inspired by the creativity and collaboration I see in this organization every day.”

For MilliporeSigma, the focus moving forward is going to be on finding the right people to fill the almost 300 positions by 2022.

“Our business was growing well before COVID-19 hit at aggressive growth rates because some of the breakthrough in biopharmaceuticals (new cancer treatments, immunotherapies, etc.). Our devices are used to help make those therapies. There was strong growth prior to the pandemic – with the pandemic we have experienced unprecedented demand for our products,” Tiano said.

Peterson said he expects interest in jobs to increase as the year moves forward.

“I think they’re going to have no choice,” Peterson said. “People at some point are going to have to go back to work.”


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