Drug-free opportunities

We have heard for a few years now that it is difficult for the trades and various industries to find qualified workers in our region. The problem doesn’t seem to be lack of education or training — it is the inability of many applicants to pass a drug screening.

That is why the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is taking a new approach to finding future recruits. It is working with the Belmont County Staying Clean club to inform drug-free teens about potential careers in the trades and to inspire them to consider a career in one of those fields.

Doug Giffin, president of the IBEW, and Martins Ferry Police Chief John McFarland, who operates the Staying Clean Club, are encouraging members of the club to attend the upcoming Construction Job & Career Fair, slated from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4-6 p.m. March 30 at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling. The annual event features presentations and demonstrations by local building trades and contractors.

Career choices represented at the fair range from operating engineers to pipefitters, electricians, cement masons, block layers, ironworkers and sheet metal workers. All of these fields offer jobs that pay $50,000 to $75,000 a year with benefits, according to Giffin.

Work in the trades is not for everyone, Giffin pointed out.

“Sometimes you are out in the freezing cold and snow, other times you are in 90-degree temperatures. Heights are definitely a factor … ,” Giffin said. “It’s not always the best atmosphere.”

Young people interested in the trades can apply for an apprenticeship program, and there is no cost to the student for training. An apprentice works a 40-hour week and then attends some evening classes. The process usually takes five years.

Giffin said if the proposed PTT Global Chemical ethane cracker plant comes to fruition south of Shadyside, “we will need every local person we can with hands-on skills and abilities.” Training in the trades would prepare young people for many of those jobs.

Parents, grandparents and other adults who know promising young teens should make those young people aware of these opportunities. We urge local teenagers to remain drug free and to consider all their options before settling on a career path.