GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s perhaps the most hopeful sign when hopeful signs are needed most: Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing is set to begin producing an eventual coronavirus vaccine for the masses.
“We hope to be manufacturing by the first of the year,” GRAM senior human resources manager Jill Quillen said.
GRAM isn’t be developing the vaccine. Rather, it will mix and pack the formula the drug companies come up with.
Founded in 2010 and expanded in 2018, the company was awarded a federal contract in August for the work. It has been on a hiring spree ever since. About 50 of the needed 125 new positions still need to be filled.
“You would need either a life science degree, so something in biology, chemistry, biochemistry, something life science-related,” Quillen said.
Industry experience is also a plus.
The challenge with hiring is the same the vaccine hopes to help overcome: COVID-19 has changed the way companies recruit.
“We’ve learned to do virtual hiring fairs. We’ve learned how to utilize Zoom and Teams and all of the technology,” Quillen said.
On Thursday, Nov. 19, GRAM will take part in Hello West Michigan’s ReThink West Michigan, the annual recruitment effort targeting West Michigan natives returning home for the Thanksgiving holiday. The event is going virtual this year.
While recruitment has been a challenge, it appears quality has trumped quantity when it comes to GRAM recruits.
“We have experienced definitely an uptick in the quality of the candidates that we are seeing apply for our positions,” Quillen said.
She also believes GRAM will be in a better position to retain those new employees once things return to whatever normal will look like.
“People place a value on the ‘why’ for what they’re doing,” Quillen said. “And we’ll be able to keep people because they’ll feel part of the process and part of the solution.”
**Correction: A previous version of this article misstated what day of the week Nov. 19 will be. It will be a Thursday. We regret the error, which has been fixed.