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Tuesday, 07 June 2011 00:00

Drugs Effecting the Unemployed

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CORNING — Despite continued high unemployment figures, some area businesses are having a difficult time filling job openings. And the main reason for the struggle may be surprising.

There isn’t a lack of qualified candidates for those jobs, according to Chemung-Schuyler-Steuben Workforce NY. But many of those candidates — between 30 percent and 50 percent, the agency says — bring one big disqualifying factor to the table: Drug use.

CSS Workforce NY held a forum Monday morning at the Corning Museum of Glass to meet with area employers and

discuss with them a new campaign to persuade people entering the job market that drug use will impede their ability to find work and make money.

“Think Again, Quit 2 Get Hired” is the theme of the campaign.

The number of job candidates who fail mandatory drug testing is shocking, said Dan Porter, executive director of CSS Workforce NY.

“Surprise is not the word I would use. It’s appalling,” Porter said. “With unemployment in our area at 8.3 percent, you would think people would give everything they could to have an advantage. It’s gigantic. It is a huge issue. We are just beginning this conversation.

“One local company I talked to had 10 openings. Their human resources department said for every five people who had the necessary skills, they know at least two are not going to pass a drug test,” he said. “It’s across the board — health care, manufacturing, drilling. It’s scary. We’ve got to talk about it.”

It’s very expensive for businesses to go through the interview process and not be able to hire their top candidate due to a drug-related issue, Porter said.

CSS Workforce NY is launching a year-long media campaign aimed at young adults, and it will try to use peer pressure in a positive way.

“Everyone thinks of peer pressure in a negative way, but we can use it positively,” said Maryland-based consultant Ed DeJesus, who was the guest speaker at Monday’s forum.

“We’re looking at using young people for local programs. I tell them that if using drugs is going to affect your ability to get a job and get paid, why let that mess with your money?”

Bob Trouskie, regional director with the Workforce Development Institute in Rochester, sat through Monday’s forum.

The revelation that so many prospective employees are washing out because they fail mandatory drug tests is disturbing, Trouskie said.

“Think about it. If you have 9 percent unemployment and still have jobs going wanting, something is wrong,” he said. “It should be easy for these people to line up and get jobs.”

DeMet’s Candy in Big Flats is among the local employers that have to turn away otherwise qualified candidates because they failed a drug test.

It’s a frustrating problem, said DeMet’s Human Resources Manager Linda Cozad.

“I would say it does affect us hiring. We do see a percentage that does not pass the drug test,” Cozad said. “That’s too bad, because we do have jobs available. (Job applicants) know there’s a drug test. They also know the requirements. They feel they can beat the test.”

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