New Castle News


February 25, 2013

Education Options, Part 2: Current shale boom casts new light on county’s economic future



Today’s generation of workers has a different skillset, education and priorities from those they are replacing.

Hoffman said companies are struggling to fill key positions. The latest national statistics indicate there are three unemployed persons for every job that is available. That ratio rises to 4-to-1 in Lawrence County, where there are 932 jobs currently available with approximately 3600 job-seekers out there.

“In the past all you needed was a stong back and an alarm clock to maintain a sustaining job and raise a family,” Hoffman said during a recent Employer Advisory Council of Lawrence County meeting.

The number of job postings through PA CareerLink have seen a steady increase, and they have been swamped with candidates who do not have the necessary qualifications.

“There are all kind of openings, but few people to fill them,” said Eileen Borrelli, executive director of  Pennsylvania CareerLink of Lawrence County.

Danielle Book, director of human resources at Ellwood City Forge, said the company saw a spike in hiring late last year, but things have leveled off.

She said Ellwood City Forge works with schools, including Lawrence County Vo-Tech and various shop classes, to educate teachers on openings they have and the skills and training that are necessary to fill them.

Borrelli said some community colleges have been given funds for roustabout training.

 “The necessary skills can be learned on the job, but students must have the appitude and ability,” ” Book said. “We have very gainful employment through manufacutring, including electronic, maintenance and machine operaters.”

“Employers are being picky,” Hoffman said. But that can go both ways. Individuals who possess the necessary skills are in demand, and Hoffman said that may give them power to negotiate with prospective employers.

Xaloy had a position open to work with metal plating material. “We received 30 resumes, but only one had experience,” Chamberlain said. “When you are working with acids and chemicals, you can’t just put any laborer into that situation.”

There are environmental concerns with the shale industry that must be addressed, including management of wastewater, contamination of groundwater, stress on existing water supply and air-quality issues.

Chamberlain said this has to be done right.

“Everytime we’ve seen growth, it has come at the expense of the environment,” she said. “We have four super fund sites in area communities because all we worried about was growth and profit.

“We must have balance or tip it over the edge. People living in Bejing can’t go outside because the pollution is so bad.”




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