Wood County has jobs - but so many applicants are testing positive for drugs that some manufacturers are reportedly having difficulty filling the openings.
|Photo Illustration by Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune
In fact, Bowling Green economic development officials were told recently that when one employer screened job applicants, seven out of 10 tested positive for drugs.
"There's a lot of frustration out there because they have jobs that are going wanting and they don't know how to fill them," said Sue Clark, executive director of the Bowling Green Community Development Foundation.
Some employers have even expressed relief that random drug testing isn't required for existing workers.
"They have said, 'If we drug tested once they're hired, we would have no workforce,'" Clark said.
The bulk of the positive drug tests show marijuana, she said.
"It's becoming a major issue," or it's showing up more because "there's such a shortage of workers," she said.
Dr. Mike Bankey, associate vice president of the workforce program at Owens Community College, said in the past manufacturers didn't list positive drug tests as a major roadblock to filling jobs. But that has changed with unemployment levels dropping and the applicant pool getting shallower.
"We have heard from some companies in the Toledo area that it's eight out of 10," testing positive, he said.
"That is generally the number one thing we hear from employers. 'Give me someone who can pass the drug test and come to work, and give me an honest day's work,'" Bankey said.
Bankey said in some cases, job applicants aren't aware they will be tested for drugs. And in other cases, they just take their chances.
"A lot of folks think they'll never catch it," he said,
Bankey said some of those testing positive may have started drug or alcohol abuse when their lives were knocked off course by the recession.
"Folks are unemployed and they are down on their luck," and they start using drugs or alcohol, he said. "It's very unfortunate."
But calls to local manufacturers show a wide disparity, with some only seeing occasional positive drug tests.
Sue Clanton, also of the Bowling Green Community Foundation, said employers report that some job applicants exit the process when they find out they will be tested for drugs and alcohol.
"A lot of people just walk out if they know there is a drug test," Clanton said. The result is frustrated employers. "Some say all they want is somebody who can pass a drug test and show up for work."
Rex Huffman, president of the Wood County Port Authority, has heard similar stories from manufacturers trying to fill jobs. The numbers of applicants using drugs may actually be higher since some withdraw themselves from the job pool when they learn they will be tested.
"Invariably some will get up and leave," Huffman said.
According to Tom Clemons, executive director of the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Services Board, studies show that approximately 10 percent of the population abuses substances. Though that's far lower than the 70 percent found in some drug screenings, "that's still a problem," Clemons said.
The biggest problems locally are found with abuse of alcohol, opiates (painkillers) and heroin. Misuse of prescription drugs has dropped, Clemons said, probably due to the closing of "pill mills" and an education blitz for pharmacists.
A urine test is the most commonly used test when job applicants are screened for illegal drugs or alcohol. With some drugs, including marijuana, residue may show in drug tests for weeks.
According to LabCorp, detection periods vary based on multiple factors, such as the type of test (urine, hair, blood or oral fluid), the drug class, amount and frequency of use, metabolic rate, body mass, age and overall heath of the person being tested.
For example, according to LabCorp, depending on the above factors, marijuana may show up in a urine test for four days for an infrequent user, 10 days for a heavy user, and 30 days in a chronic or high body fat user. Hair tests can detect marijuana up to 90 days after use.
Alcohol may show up in a typical urine test for six to 24 hours, in a hair test for 48 hours, or a blood test for 24 hours, according to LabCorp.
Jack Hollister, president of The Employers' Association, which studies human resource issues in for companies in Northwest Ohio, said businesses that conduct drug testing are typically manufacturers or others that have liability if an employee puts himself, other workers or customers at risk. Often the tests are done for entry level positions.
Though the association hasn't done any surveying specifically on drug testing issues, Hollister said he has heard employers express such concerns.
"I have heard that directly from our members in manufacturing over and over," said Hollister, of Bowling Green.
The problem may be surfacing now because the economy is improving, he said.
"As that happens, people start to hire again. They are looking for folks," he said.
And that worries economic development officials when companies can't fill openings.
"It's extremely frustrating to us as a community. We do have jobs," said Earlene Kilpatrick, head of the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce.
Mary DeWitt, head of the JOBsolutions program in Wood County, said she has heard employers talk of positive drug tests, but on a much smaller scale than 70 percent.
"I hear that, too, when I go out at meetings," DeWitt said. "But I don't think it's that bad. That number seems a little extreme."
DeWitt said the majority of companies that conduct drug screenings are manufacturers.
"Just because of the safety of it. They are working with machinery," she said.
Human resource managers at three Wood County manufacturers agreed a problem exists, but it isn't extreme.
Dee Meyer, human resources generalist at Rosenboom Machine and Tool Inc., in Bowling Green, said her company conducts drug tests on all new employees.
"There are some people that come back positive for drugs," she said, estimating that number at 10 percent - far below the 70 percent noted by other companies. "The percentages aren't anywhere near that amount."
Meyer said Rosenboom's numbers may be lower since she weeds out potential problem applicants before they even come in for drug testing.
"There are certain things I screen out right away," she said.
Kelly Conner, human resources manager at Toledo Molding and Die in Bowling Green, said her company's initial screening process may also account for its lower numbers of positive drug tests.
"We really don't have an issue," she said.
"We have more of a problem with people lying on applications," but those issues are often discovered during background checks, Conner said.
Rhonda Grothaus, human resources director at the D.S. Brown Co. in North Baltimore, said her company occasionally sees positive test results.
"Usually they are few and far between," she said.
Though occasionally, applicants will take extra effort to pass the drug test.
"Recently someone tried to bring someone else's urine," but he was caught, Grothaus said.