State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Some employers see merit in Corbett's "drug test" comment

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | May 1, 2013 2:19 PM
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Photo by Mary Wilson / witf


Some employers say finding job applicants who can clear drug tests is a real concern, though it may not be as large a contributor to the state's 7.9 percent unemployment rate as a recent comment by Gov. Corbett would suggest.

"There are many employers that say 'we're looking for people, but we can't find anybody that has passed a drug test, a lot of them,'" Corbett said on the Radio Pennsylvania show Ask the Governor. "And that's a concern for me, because we're having a serious problem with that."

Scott Sheely, head of the Lancaster County Workforce Investment Board, said connecting employers with drug-free applicants is a problem, though it's not the biggest one he encounters.

"In terms of the range of issues we run into, that may not be the number one or number two, but it's one of them that's of concern to employers," he said. Sheely added that one of the top issues for the jobless he sees is obtaining the basic skills necessary to perform jobs - even literacy and work habits.

But a clear drug test is crucial to getting a job in the health care and manufacturing sectors, which have been doing a lot of the hiring lately in Sheely's area.

"Drug use is a huge issue there because of the safety kind of concerns that come as a result of all that," said Sheely.

The Governor's Manufacturing Advisory Council - peopled with manufacturing company CEOs and industry experts - makes passing reference to the issue in its 2012 report. It doesn't suggest drug tests are leaving jobs unfilled, but does recommend job applicants should be provided with additional incentives to pass voluntary drug tests.

One of the people on the council, Janis Herschkowitz, runs PRL, Inc., a Lebanon County manufacturer serving the defense and nuclear industry. She said finding drug-free employees is an issue she's heard about from other companies and experienced first-hand.

"I can't tell you how many conversations I've had where you're like, 'Oh my God, please pass the drug test, we need you,'" said Herschkowitz.

But if clearing drug tests is a problem for manufacturers, it appears the natural gas drilling industry, credited with bringing jobs to the commonwealth, has found a way to cope. Travis Windle, a spokesman with the Marcellus Shale Coalition, the industry's top trade group in Pennsylvania, said finding drug-free employees hasn't been a "major, systemic" issue.


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