Mr. Green Tea wants to hire Bayshore workers, can’t always get applications

The production room at Mr. Green Tea's factory on East Front Street in the former West Furniture showroom. Photo: Matthew McGrath/For the AnchorThe production room at Mr. Green Tea's factory on East Front Street in the former West Furniture showroom. Photo: Matthew McGrath/For the Anchor

KEYPORT — When Michael Emanuele, the vice-president of Mr. Green Tea, the luxury brand ice cream maker based here, wants to find a vice president of marketing and communications who might earn an $80,000 salary, the search isn’t hard.

Comparatively the search for a blue collar worker who lives nearby is much harder.

“It’s really tough to find good labor,” Emanaule said. “It’s really difficult so we try to use everything at our disposal.”

For its top positions, Mr. Green Tea recruiters will launch a national search. And, there are plenty of tools to help them. LinkedIn and Ladder.com are two websites specifically designed for experienced middle-managers and executives to connect with jobs and hiring managers in their field. Job seekers will travel to trade shows to meet with potential hiring managers.

That marketing executive, for example? They could present themselves at a trade show in Austin, Texas. But, a solid maintenance worker who might earn $12 an hour (less than $25,000 annually given a 40-hour week) isn’t going to the trade shows, Emanuele said.

One of the reasons, Mr. Green Tea moved its operations from Manalapan was to tap into the an available blue-collar workforce of skilled and unskilled labor in Keyport and the Bayshore.  Their preferred candidate is often someone young without a four-year degree that wants to learn and grow with the company.

In November, Emanuele took to Facebook. He posted a job announcement at private group for Keyport residents:

As MR GREEN TEA continues our expansion we want to continue to support the community of Keyport and hire as many local individuals possible. With that said we are again looking for a motivated individual to fill a facilities/warehouse maintenance role.

More than a month later, that position remained unfilled.

Where else does he post ads?

“Craigslist, mostly.” he said.

There isn’t necessarily an imbalance between white collar and blue collar workers , said Carl Van Horn, the director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University’s Bloustein School of Public Policy.

The unemployed workforce in New Jersey tends to be older, experienced individuals who lost their office jobs in the 2008 recession. As the economy recovered, employers didn’t necessarily go back and hire their older employees.

Recent graduates of four-year schools tend to have lofty ambitions. They are heading to graduate school or they are trying to get on track for that marketing executive job.

Graduates of two-year schools tend to be trained in a specific trade or they are using their associate’s degree as a springboard to a full university, Van Horn said. If they are going to be blue collar workers, they tend to be seeking entry level jobs in highly skilled fields as plumbers, X-ray techs or mechanics.

Without knowing the specifics, the maintenance job at Mr. Green Tea needs to have a more defined path toward growth to be attractive to a potentially young job seeker with some college educations, Van Horn said. In general, that type of job is great for a recent high school graduate who does not plan on going to college immediately after high school or an adult without a high school diploma.

What Mr. Green Tea, which was founded in Brooklyn to provide Japanese-style ice cream to top Manhattan restaurants, has is plans to grow in Keyport and the Bayshore. The company has invested millions renovating the old West Furniture showroom on East Front Street. They had to build special coolers that won’t freeze the ground water. They purchased extra quiet equipment so not to disturb their residential neighbors.

But, their facility is maxed out for production, Emanuale said. They need to expand elsewhere in town or nearby to meet a growing demand. That’s where Emanuele sees the potential for growth. He is looking for someone young to take on entry-level rolls. He sees the opportunity for potential employees in the company’s growth.

But Van Horn also acknowledges that there is a lack of resources available to the basic workforce to find jobs.

He pointed he state Department of Labor and Workforce Development’ job board as an alternative for employers and job seekers.

The board allows employers to post job openings for free, and job seekers can search for jobs there or they can register with the county workforce development office. Libraries with Internet access can help workers without computers search for the jobs.

“Therefore, while it is true that blue collar workers may not have the same resources as white collar workers, there are alternatives that are useful for both employers and jobseekers to connect for blue collar job opportunities,” he said.