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John Soules Foods now hiring

Chambers County Development Authority Executive Director Valerie Gray was in attendance at a recent Chambers County Commission work session and discussed a hiring update on John Soules Foods.

The hiring process is through AIDT, a state agency established to build a healthy state economy by recruiting and training a skilled workforce to attract new industries to the state and to expand existing industries. As a division of the Alabama Department of Commerce, AIDT provides a full range of customized technical training programs that are offered at no cost to employers and to the trainees.

Gray said starting wages for John Soules Foods will be $14 per hour plus benefits.

County Attorney Skip McCoy asked if they were seeing a migration of workers from the automotive manufacturers because of the higher wages. Gray said they aren’t.

According to the AIDT job page, there are three position types available. In the maintenance category, jobs available are maintenance technician 1 through 4, refrigeration 1 and 2 and refrigeration apprentice. Operator positions available are pallet jack operator, tumbler operator, stacker, grader, laydown, marination and floor person. Also, listed are various positions that include marination clerk, processing clerk, quality assurance technician and line lead.

To apply for any of these positions, log on to jobs.aidt.edu.

Gray also said John Soules Foods, in conjunction with the City of Valley, will conduct a job fair at the Valley Community Center on May 26.

Gray asked the commissioners to speak to their districts and encourage people to apply.

“Just encourage people to just at least apply for it,” Gray told the commission. “You’re going to have a different set of wages, different set of benefits, you’re going to have opportunities to progress throughout the company, as well as a different culture.”

Gray also emphasized that there will be mandatory training as the nature of the work will be working with food. Gray said the training will take place at night and will be unpaid.

Commissioner Charlie Williams expressed concern with the unpaid training.

“One setback I see right now is you don’t pay for training,” Williams said. “I just wonder how many good employees won’t go because they are not being paid for their time.”

Gray responded saying unpaid training has been an AIDT standard for many years.

“It shows whether an employee is willing to go the extra mile for them,” she said. “It’s usually four, two-hour training sessions. These are just basic skills. These are your soft skills and how they identify team leaders. But, you have to go through the pre-employment training, which is about four or five days before you can get hired.”

The pre-employment training will be offered in the morning, afternoon and evening to work around people that are currently employed.

Commissioner James Williams pointed toward the growing trend of people who appear to not be working because they are receiving government assistance.

“Another problem is, a lot of folks that could be applying don’t want to go to work because they are receiving a free check right now,” Williams said.

Gray also highlighted the additional $47 million in improvements John Soules Foods made was to keep the lines completely separate.

“All the improvements in the additional $47 million spent is to make the lines completely separate from each other,” she said. “So, if we ever have another health issue or anything, those lines can work independently of each other and reduce the risk of cross-contamination.”

Due to Chambers County working in two time zones, Gray said John Soules Foods has been carefully looking at their shift schedules.

“They have taken an extremely large amount of due diligence in their shift work,” she told the commission. “They did ask us about the time zones. They wanted to know what all the schools were in the timezones, primarily elementary and middle schools because employees have to get kids to school and pick them up.”

Although shift start times have not yet been announced, Gray said John Soules will have two full shifts — first and second shifts. Then, beginning at midnight, sanitation and cleaning will take place.

“Valerie, are they still scheduled for setup to go Oct 1?” McCoy asked. Gray confirmed the timeline is still in place.

“It is a massive amount of construction that’s going on there, and they are using so many local people through contracts, it’s been impressive,” Gray said.