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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Too High To Work In O-"HI"-O -- Great Jobs Go Unfilled

Development of oil and gas fields in Ohio’s Utica shale formation is expected to ramp up in the next two years. But, industry leaders say they’ve hit a snag, too few potential workers can pass a required drug screen.

(Tom Borgerding, "Required Drug Screens Snag Potential Ohio Energy Workforce,"
National Public Radio News, January 10 2013)

The richest deposits of oil and natural gas in Ohio’s Utica shale formation are believed to be in counties east and north of Columbus in the foothills of Appalachia. There’s new demand for workers. But industry officials say too few qualify, in part, because they cannot pass a required drug screen.

Rhonda Reda, head of the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program, speaks about the extent of the inability to pass a required drug test.

“This is becoming a bigger problem or people are finally being made aware that this is a bigger problem than we ever realized."

She says abuse of prescription and illegal drugs makes it difficult to find enough workers.

 What are the rates of applicants failing tests? Reda says...

“From the companies we’ve spoke to and what actual numbers that we’re getting is 50, 60 percent. That’s pretty high.”

The industry is in a race against time. So far, it’s added about 39,000 jobs in Ohio but she predicts thousands of new jobs will be added during the next three years. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources says 45 new horizontal wells in eastern Ohio are already producing oil and natural gas. There are permits for nearly 500 more.

New Concord consultant Elizabeth Carter recruits oilfield workers. She conducts recruitment seminars in a bid to find drug-free applicants. Carter says...

“If you’ve got a crane operator and he’s on Vicodin right now do you want him on your job site, probably not.”

Carter reports that some workers who pass an initial drug screen are employed only a short time. She adds...

“You go ahead, you hire them and for whatever reason, you know it’s electronically pulled for random. The next month when you get you’re random list, those new hires are usually on there and that’s when they fail the drug test. They’ve cleaned up for your pre-employment and then think that they’re good to go and then they have positive for a random.”

This Problem Is Not Isolated

Significant numbers of people all over the U.S. cannot pass drug tests required for employment.

For example, New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce recently spoke to a joint session of the New Mexico Legislature about jobs and drug testing. Here is what he said:

"I will tell you that I’ve had eight job fairs in the 2nd district of New Mexico in the last two years. The least number of jobs that we had in a day were 400 and we had 3,000 jobs every single job fair.
And I’ll tell you that we probably didn’t fill ten spots in any one of the job fairs. It was free, open to the public, and we publicly advertised it as well.

"The reason I had the jobs fairs is because I was hearing everyone saying there were no jobs. And then on the other hand, I was seeing employers say, ‘We have no people. We can’t hire anyone. They won’t come to work. They can’t pass the drug screen and they won’t come off of government assistance.’ So we began to have the job fairs to point that out.”
 (Steve Pearce, "Pearce Says Jobs Unfilled Because Workers Can't Pass Drug Tests,"
New Mexico Telegram, January 17 2013)
(Click To Enlarge)
 + Difference between this estimate and the 2011 estimate is statistically significant at the .05 level.
1 The Other Employment category includes students, persons keeping house or caring for children full time, retired or disabled persons, or other persons not in the labor force.

Here are national statistics about current illicit drug use differed by employment status in 2011:

Among adults aged 18 or older, the rate of current illicit drug use was higher for those who were unemployed (17.2 percent) than for those who were employed full time (8.0 percent), employed part time (11.6 percent), or "other" (6.4 percent) (which includes students, persons keeping house or caring for children full time, retired or disabled persons, or other persons not in the labor force)

Although the rate of current illicit drug use was higher among unemployed persons in 2011 compared with those who were either employed full time, employed part time, or "other," most of these users were employed. Of the 19.9 million current illicit drug users aged 18 or older in 2011, 13.1 million (65.7 percent) were employed either full or part time.

Wow! Of course, many potential workers are screaming about use of medical marijuana coming into play as the  major reason for people failing required drug tests. Others who fail are entirely truthful and admit to recreational marijuana use but feel "failure" for employment should not include occasional use of this substance.

So, In These O-"HI"-O Times of "High" Unemployment, Here Is What One Career Author Advises  Employees

J.T. O'Donnell, job search and career expert, reported an anonymous business owner recently vented his frustration to her around the number of job seekers who fail drug tests at his company:

“As a fairly active employer when it comes to hiring, I need to share with you my recent frustration when it comes to new hires and drug testing. We have had a particularly bad run in the last quarter with over a dozen failed tests. With over half of the candidates being college grads, I was particularly surprised! It actually seems more like an IQ test, why take it if you are going to fail? People currently in a job hunt should really be more aware of how testing works, and be prepared to pass. It is both disappointing and expensive for us as employers.”
O'Donnell said, "Now, you might be thinking, 'I bet this it was a bunch of punk kids,' or 'The job probably pays squat.' Well, you are wrong. When I contacted him to get more details around the situation, here’s what he told me the following:
  • In three months, he tested 39 prospective employees at $45/test. That’s an estimated $7,000/year spent on drug testing
  • Only 25% passed.
  • Their ages ranged between 21-52 years old.
  • The owner estimates the additional cost of the wasted time/expense went into interviewing these people prior to the test at $24,000+.
"More importantly, these people missed out on jobs that paid between $50,000 – $58,000/year!"

So, O'Donnell advises potential worker to be sure to find out before they apply if the company is going to ask them to take a drug test to avoid any embarrassment.

She also says...

"If the company fails to mention the drug test until after your interview. Simply say you’d be happy to take the test and leave. Then, call them back and say that upon reflection, you’ve decided the job isn’t for you. That way, you won’t be embarrassed when you fail and you’ll save the company the cost of giving you the test.
"Using drugs is your choice – you just need to acknowledge choosing to do so comes with consequences in the form of limiting your job options. It’s a small world, failing a drug test isn’t good for your career. So, be smart and move on if you know you can’t pass one."
(J.T. O'Donnell,  "Don’t Take Drug Test if You Know You’ll Fail," Careerealism, 2013) 

My Take

Substance abuse, dependence, and addiction are unacceptable, no matter the drug. Yes, I am sympathetic with some job applicants and employees about their frustrations over being unable to pass a drug test; however, at the same time, I realize the importance of their making necessary sacrifices to insure a safe work place and to insure public safety.

I understand the Legalization argument. I also see the reasons people lobby for the freedom to smoke marijuana. But... the extent of the substance use and the environment circumstances related to certain jobs do bother me every time I consider legalizing another vice. Getting high can be just "getting stupid."

I can say the same about alcohol use and alcohol results. Drinking alcohol in excess is definitely a vice. Yet, consumption is legal. So, testing positive for alcohol could be very minor in relation to how it negatively affects performance on a job, but, at the same time, testing positive could be of utmost importance. Employers, unfortunately, don't have the resources to investigate all results.

My bottom line: If you have a brain and want a job, a family, a house, etc., you must study the territory, know the terrain, and abide by the rules. When something within the rules bothers you and becomes an impediment to your own success, you must overcome it. It is dumb as hell to be a rebel without a cause. Too many people these days are just that -- individuals without reason.

Do whatever it takes to get the job, abide by the rules, and become a better person. If you don't, you only hurt yourself and those you love. If like a small child, you refuse to change "just because," be ready to suffer the negative consequences. Productive work is all about being intelligent.

My favorite TV personality, "Judge Judy" Sheindlin, once said this about a ridiculous claim for personal pain and suffering:

"The time to change was yesterday; the time to wake up is now. You don't get reimbursed for stupidity! Your case is dismissed."
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