Airstream's CEO explains why the company has too many applicants even though it doesn't put out job ads amid a hiring spree

Airstream's CEO explains why the company has too many applicants even though it doesn't put out job ads amid a hiring spree
Workers inside the Airstream factory in Jackson Center, Ohio in 2014. Jay LaPrete/AP Photo
  • Airstream is ramping up hiring and production efforts amid increasing demand for its RVs.
  • The company has received more applications than it can process.
  • Bob Wheeler, CEO and president of Airstream, explains how it's been able to attract talent amid the labor shortage.

Airstream has been ramping up production efforts to accommodate the booming demand for its travel trailers and camper vans. And with this boost in production comes the need for more workers.

But unlike other retailers and fast food companies that have been struggling to hire amid the US labor shortage, Airstream is having no problem finding talent. It's actually the opposite: the company has too many applicants.

"We interview a hundred people to get 20," Bob Wheeler, Airstream's CEO, told Insider. "We're blessed to have good applicants and enough of them right now to meet the needs of the company."

The road travel vehicle maker has been slammed with orders since the start of COVID-19. In May 2020, about two months after the COVID-19 pandemic first began to spread throughout the US, Airstream started noticing skyrocketing interest from consumers, Wheeler told Insider last year. Soon, interest became so high, the company began struggling to keep up with orders.

Since then, Airstream has continuously broken year-over-year sales records every month. And now, its dealers are selling without any inventory, and instead taking orders for future deliveries.


"They're still continuing to sell more month-per-month and year-over-year even with limited inventory," Wheeler said.

This means Airstream has needed to ramp up production in order to meet this seemingly endless demand. And with this boost in manufacturing comes a massive hiring push.

By late July 2020, Airstream was able to bring back every worker it had laid off. And since last August, the company has hired an additional 500 workers. But that's not the end of the push: Wheeler says Airstream will still need to hire another 200 people by the end of the year.

So how has the road travel vehicle maker been able to bring in so many applicants despite the US labor shortage? According to Wheeler, the secret lies within the company's perks and good hours, which has brought in "more applicants than they can even process."

"We made a very conscious decision when we built our current manufacturing facility to build it big enough that we can operate in one shift, that first shift," Wheeler said. This sets Airstream apart from other nearby facilities that instead run three shifts.


Many of Airstream's applicants are in the upper 20-year-old to late millennial age range looking for a workplace "upgrade" after previously working at other local manufacturers, such as Honda and Crown Equipment.

"We are a first shift company and for many people, that's it, that's their only choice," Wheeler said. "We positioned ourselves as the first shift company of choice here with good benefits and a real family feel."

But there's one age group that's been dominating the majority of applications: Gen Z.

Like other industries, Airstream has been seeing younger applicants, including people fresh out of high school and college. According to Wheeler, many of these younger employees are opting to skip college, and have decided to stay local and raise a family instead (many of these applicants live within 15 to 20 miles of the plant, which is located in Ohio).

Plus, the company doesn't advertise any open positions, which means news of roles has all been spread by word-of-mouth.


"I feel pretty good that if you're willing to recommend your child to come work in the same place you do, that we're doing a pretty good job of creating the culture of a place people really want to work [at]," Wheeler said.