Nov. 03–After 42 years with the same employer, Kevin Spath of West Deer is facing the prospect of losing his job.
He’s been told his last day working in shipping and receiving at his employer’s warehouse will be Nov. 17.
Spath, 63, was among job seekers — those with jobs and those without — who came to a job fair in the cafeteria at Deer Lakes High School on Thursday evening, hoping for the best.
“I figured since this was here, I’d get some information,” he said. “What I’m looking for is benefits. Maybe I’ll find something.”
Carrying a commercial driver’s license, commonly called a “CDL,” Spath may have been just what some outfits in the oil-and-natural gas industry were looking for. Representatives of that field, along with the building trades, dominated the fair hosted by Allegheny County Councilman Ed Kress.
Marissa Powell, a recruiter with Equipment Transport, based in Carlisle, was looking for people with CDL truck driver’s licenses and the right experience.
Powell’s company works with Range Resources, which also attended the job fair and had 10 job openings to fill at its offices in Cecil Township, Washington County.
While growth in natural gas has slowed, “There’s still a lot of well-paying, family sustaining jobs in this industry,” said Mike Mackin, director of external affairs for Range.
Equipment Transport has more than 500 employees in several states, with about 200 in Pennsylvania, Powell said.
She was looking for 10 to 15 people to drive water trucks, or, as they’re known in the industry, “water bottles.”
It pays $19 to $21 per hour, with 12-hour shifts, five days a week.
The challenge Powell faces is getting applicants with the right experience — including a tanker endorsement, clean driving record and two years of experience.
“We need to get more people to work for us,” she said.
But “there’s a lot of new drivers out there” who don’t have the necessary experience, she said.
Falcon Drilling is another company working with Range, specializing in vertical drilling for wells.
“It’s physical labor,” human resources manager Rachel Himes said. “You’re constantly moving and out in the elements.”
They work 14 days on, then 14 days off.
But, she said, “the pay is great.” With no experience or education, someone can be making up to $59,000 a year, plus benefits.
“I’m always hoping to find anybody, at any time,” she said. “It’s tough to fill the positions. It’s hard to find quality people.”
Finding people willing to work is also a challenge for the building trades, even though they offer apprenticeship programs that are free and during which those in training are most often working and getting paid.
“It’s hard work. That’s the catch,” said Kurt Keller, an apprentice training coordinator with Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers Local 9. “You have to work.”
There are 16 trades, all with training programs of three-to-five years offered at no cost, said Jeff Nobers, executive director of the Builders Guild of Western Pennsylvania.
“They’re all trying to recruit more apprentices,” he said. “We’re not offering a job. We’re offering an education for a career.”
What the trades are looking for, Nobers said, are those dedicated to the work to make their investment worthwhile.
“There’s probably never been a better time in the history of this region to get into commercial construction,” he said. “We’re on the cusp of something exceptionally huge. The career path is there and wide open.”
The bricklayers have close to 100 people in its apprenticeship program now and is looking to increase it to 240.
“We have the work to support it now,” Keller said.
Pay in the first year of the four-year program is $15 per hour, rising to close to $35 in the fourth year. Where they go from there is up to them, Keller said.
Some open their own businesses.
“If they have a driver’s license, are willing to work and have a good work ethic, they can make a nice career,” Keller said.
All that’s required to get in is being 18 years of age, have a high school diploma or equivalency degree and a driver’s license.
And one more thing — being able to pass a drug test, which employers said has become a problem during the opioid epidemic.
Keller said that out of 100 applicants, he’s had three fail a drug test.
It’s a matter of job safety, Nobers said.
“That’s taken very seriously,” he said.
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4701, email@example.com or via Twitter @BCRittmeyer.
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