LISTEN: Amid massive growth in the Savannah region's manufacturing, warehouse, and logistics industries, consultants recommend that employers increase recruitment of veterans and high school graduates. GPB's Benjamin Payne reports.

Hyundai's Metaplant electric vehicle factory and paint shop in Bryan County under construction in October.

Hyundai's Metaplant electric vehicle factory and paint shop in Bryan County under construction in October.

Credit: Hyundai Motor Group

The greater Savannah area will likely experience a worker shortage in 2025 for new industrial jobs, according to a new workforce study commissioned by the Savannah Harbor-Interstate 16 Corridor Joint Development Authority.

The projection comes amid a flurry of current and future industrial job openings in the greater Savannah area, as Hyundai's Metaplant electric vehicle factory — currently under construction in Bryan County and slated to begin production in 2025 — and Hyundai suppliers open for business.

New Jersey-based Wadley Donovan Gutshaw Consulting surveyed 62 companies with up to one-hour commutes from the Hyundai site, and projected that 1,454 industrial jobs would be unfilled in 2025, growing to 1,968 vacancies in 2026 and 2,206 vacancies in 2027, before beginning to improve.

The study recommended the creation of training and recruitment programs for high school graduates, as 84% of new hires currently have no more than a high school diploma.

“If you're living in Savannah and you want a really good-paying job and you're in high school, you need to start thinking about whether or not you really want to go to college, or if you don't, getting that [skillset] so that you can graduate at 18 years old and be making $60,000 to $70,000 a year,” Savannah Economic Development Authority president and CEO Trip Tollison said.

However, the study indicates that the average skilled job currently pays below that range: $27.13 per hour, which amounts to annual earnings of $56,430 under a 40-hour workweek. Semi-skilled and unskilled jobs pay an average of $44,304 and $36,920 per year, respectively.

The study described wage growth as both a “risk” to companies and “increasingly important” to attracting and retaining employees.

In addition to high school graduates, employment of veterans was recommended, as more than 3,500 service members annually leave Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah and Fort Stewart near Hinesville. Most have transferable skills, and nearly 75% prefer local employment.

The study projected that, starting in 2024, demand for industrial labor will outpace that of office jobs, with that trend continuing for the rest of the decade.

Beyond the regional workforce in Georgia, Tollison said that the consultants identified five states where employers should focus their recruiting efforts: Florida, Tennessee, New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois.

“There are industries there that are no longer kind of applicable to those regions,” Tollison said. “There's higher unemployment that we can tap into.”

During September — the most recent month for which data is available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — it is true that New York (4%) and Illinois (4.4%) had higher unemployment rates than Georgia (3.2%); however, Pennsylvania had the same rate as Georgia, and Florida (2.8%) and Tennessee (3.2%) recorded lower rates.