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Politics & Government

Trade Group Says Survey Links Drug Use To Job Vacancies

A manufacturing trade group says a new survey links drug use to unfilled jobs in Pennsylvania, though it doesn't catapult the issue out of the realm of anecdotes.

The Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association says the conclusion of a commissioned survey is that one-third of manufacturing job applicants fail or decline to take drug tests.

It's actually one-third of company executives surveyed who say drug tests foiled new hires.

PMA Executive Director David Taylor said the poll was a "first stab" at quantifying a problem he's heard about for years.

"Certainly, we're not going to claim that this instrument is perfect," Taylor said. "We're just getting started."

Of the 870 executives surveyed, 200 said they administer drug tests — the one-third figure is taken from that smaller subset.

The survey found 19 percent of the 200 executives who administer a drug test are encountered by applicants who decline to take it. Taylor acknowledged it's not clear whether those applicants use drugs.

"There is an assumption there, but either way, they remove themselves from the pool of potential applicants," Taylor said. Having a sober workforce, he added, is of utmost importance because of the potential dangers of working in manufacturing.

"You have heavy equipment, you have bladed instruments, you have extreme temperatures, you have high voltage, you have chemical reactions going on," Taylor said. "A lot of ways that people could get hurt or, God forbid, killed."

Last year, Gov. Tom Corbett was criticized after he said drug use is a reason why jobs were not being filled in Pennsylvania. Employers and advocates agreed, adding that other issues like literacy and work habits play just as large a role.

Taylor said PMA is taking practical steps to "address the drug use problem." The group's affiliates support a curriculum for high school seniors in northeastern Pennsylvania that helps prepare students for the workplace, including a drug screening requirement.