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Oil and gas jobs become a missed opportunity for workers unable to pass drug tests

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - Drug testing is standard for getting a job in the emerging natural gas industry in the region. However, employers continue to report that getting potential workers to pass a drug test is a problem.

According to the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program, between 10 and 60 percent of people qualified for jobs in the shale industry can't pass a drug test. These are people employers want to hire but they won't.

David Taylor of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association estimated Wednesday that 6,000 to 7,000 manufacturing jobs are unfilled, in part because applicants walk away once they learn they have to pass a drug test.

"They're jobs that are well paying, include benefits and so many of our folks in this region could really benefit from those positions," said Jessica Borza with the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition. "But if they can't pass a drug test, then they won't be able to realize those opportunities."

Shale jobs often involve the operation of heavy equipment.. Safety's a big concern and part of the reason drug testing is the norm.

According to data from Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index, those who fail drug tests are often smoking pot.

Some also trying to cheat their way past the drug test, according to several drug testing facilities.

At the Family Recovery Center in Lisbon, they say they've seen it all.

"They bring in urine, other peoples urine, their children's urine," described Cheryl Hurr with the Family Recovery Center. "They're actually going on the Internet and able to purchase 'urinators.'"

Keeping up with the ever changing gimmicks and tricks is a constant battle. When drug testing facilities started gauging the temperature of urine samples to make sure they were coming from the body of the person taking the test, they started seeing bags of urine with heat packs pop up for sale online.

The recovery center estimates 10 percent of those who should test positive slip through the cracks.

"We just find new ways all the time that they are bringing things in," said Hurr.

Potential employees failing drug tests has become such a wide spread problem that even trade schools, like the Columbiana County Career and Technical Center, are working now to address it.

According to the school's Adult Education Director Kelly Weikart, the school can not require manufacturing students to take drug tests but they can provide an incentive for them not to do drugs.

The school is considering giving all students who volunteer to take a drug test and pass it, a certificate.

"If you're an employer and you have two people apply for a job and one person has a certificate that says 'Hey, I was clean when I was in school' and the other one doesn't, who would you pick?" questioned Weikart.

Potential employees thinking they can "clean up" for a drug test then go back to taking drugs once they're hired is also a concern for the industry, according to the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program.

That's why some companies conduct periodic random drug tests to make sure employees are not using drugs.

The advice from industry experts is to not apply at all if you can't pass a drug test.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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