Health Care

Here’s why this company is looking to hire hundreds of people in central Kansas

The Pfizer drug manufacturing plant that sits on the northern edge of this central Kansas town of 13,201 is on a hiring spree.

Already at about 2,000 people — 1,700 of whom are full time with the remainder temporary and contract employees — Pfizer’s McPherson plant is looking to hire 350 more workers. It’s already had job fairs in Wichita and Salina as part of its efforts to increase employment at the plant that manufactures sterile, injectable medicines.

“We are seeing an increase in demand, which is driving a number of the head count positions,” said Carole Johnson, Pfizer’s McPherson site leader.

The plant is looking to hire for a variety of different positions including production supervisors, project managers, process engineers and microbiologists to support the manufacturing of a variety of injectable medicines.

The company said it offers competitive pay for those jobs but didn’t disclose exact figures because the available jobs vary greatly. Pfizer said compensation is based on the type of position, the demand for it, the education it requires and the experience of the job candidate.

The Pfizer plant in McPherson, about 50 miles north of Wichita, is still recruiting to fill 350 jobs there. Jerry Siebenmark The Wichita Eagle

“We’re not just looking for people with a pharmaceutical background, because obviously there’s not a lot of pharmaceutical companies around here,” she said.

Those medicines are used to treat high blood pressure and infections as well as provide pain relief.

“They’re typically not the kind of medicines you see advertised,” Johnson said. “They are used more in a hospital or emergency room environment.”

The medicines the plant produces are used in 40 different countries, though North America accounts for most of the demand.

The plant annually produces 125 million units of medicine. A unit represents whatever type of packaging contains the medicine, such as a glass vial.

The plant was built in 1974 by a company named Sterling Drug Co. More recently it was owned by Hospira, which New York-based Pfizer acquired in 2015 for $17 billion.

Since 2015, Pfizer has invested $350 million in its 680,000-square-foot McPherson plant.

Drug company filling jobs

Johnson said at the Wichita job fair last month, about “170 people turned up for the day, which is great.”

“We’re still kind of going through the interview process” with those applicants, she added.

She said the company is still recruiting and “we will be even into next year.”

To find out more about those open jobs, see

A 3.3 percent statewide unemployment rate makes finding hundreds of new workers challenging, Johnson said.

It’s why Pfizer is hosting job fairs in Wichita, about 50 miles south, and in Salina, about 37 miles north.

“That’s why we’re reaching out further, so people can understand what we do,” Johnson said. “Working for a global pharmaceutical company brings other benefits . . . it’s the satisfaction of knowing you’re making medicines that are saving people’s lives. That isn’t something you can say for every job. It kind of brings a lot of pride to people working here.”

And people who work in what Johnson called “regulated industries” such as aerospace and food manufacturing have transferable skills for many of the new jobs at the Pfizer plant.

“Working in those types of industries, where you have procedures that you have to follow and you understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, it’s all transferable to working here,” Johnson said.

Many of those open positions don’t require a scientific or medical education and background.

“As Pfizer continues to invest in this site, bringing in new equipment, investing in facilities, what was purchased maybe 20 years ago for equipment, what it looks like now is it’s a lot more automated. You need quite a different skill set to bring it in and then be to able to run it. That’s why were looking for a lot of engineers . . . as well as a lot of the skilled trades because we need people to maintain and run the equipment.”

“It’s really bringing in a lot more technical capability to ensure that we continue to supply good quality medicines.”

Jerry Siebenmark: 316-268-6576, @jsiebenmark