Skilled Labor Shortage Affecting Local Employers

| May 20, 2019

VENANGO CO., Pa. (EYT) – The skilled labor shortage that has been a concern around the world is also hitting our area.

According to a poll by Gallup, 45% of employers worldwide say they can’t find employees with the required skills.

The same lack of skilled labor affecting employers from Germany—which estimated the labor issue is costing their economy about 30 billion euros a year in GDP growth, to Korea, where the government has continued increasing the quota of foreign workers over the last few years—is affecting employers in our area, as well.

Kris Johnson, Business Manager at Deets Mechanical, in Seneca, said they are having the same issue in Venango County.

Johnson told, “I don’t think it’s a regional thing, though, I think it a national thing, based on the fact that unemployment is so low.”

“There’s this big push for everyone to go to college, but we’re encouraging people to attend trade school and vo tech programs, even in high school.”

Another Venango County business expressed the problem encountered with finding skilled labor.

Wendy Wenner, Office Manager and Controller for Hards Fabrication and Welding, of Seneca, said they would like to add a second shift, but simply can’t find the workforce to do so.

“We can find welders, but to find the machinists that can run the big equipment in our shop, there’s just no one trained for it. It’s just so high-tech and specialized, you have to have someone specially trained for that type of machine,” explained Wenner.

Venango County employers aren’t the only ones seeing these problems.

According to Bruce Reed, owner of SIC Metals & Fabrication LLC and CARGOMAXXX Aluminum Trailers, in Clarion, difficulty finding and keeping skilled labor is definitely a problem for industries in our area.

“We’ve had a very difficult time. We kind of pride ourselves that we’re one of the top paying places locally, but it just seems like people don’t want to work. So many just don’t pan out or don’t have the skills or the mindset to continue employment,” said Reed.

According to Reed, even finding people with the skills his companies require is difficult, as many welding programs don’t even cover welding aluminum.

“We’re a very specialized company and do lots of industrial welding, but most of the applicants we get are severely undertrained. We have to get them training, and quite recently it’s hard to find people who are even willing to do the training,” Reed added.

According to Spencer Sturgeon, Recruiter for Miller Fabrication Solutions, in Brookville, finding everything from trained welders to machinists has become difficult.

“I think there’s just not enough skilled labor. From my personal perspective, about ten years ago there was so much push to go to college, and no push for skilled labor, it left us with this shortage now,” noted Sturgeon.

The problem appears to be increasing statewide based on recent labor statistics data.

According to the most recent data available from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of job openings rose to 7.5 million on the last business day of March 2019, with the largest increases in transportation, warehousing, utilities, construction, real estate, and rental and leasing.

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