Job openings more plentiful than workers

The staff at Pennsylvania CareerLink Lawrence County are dedicated to matching local job seekers with employers. In front is, left Colleen Chamberlain, the new site administrator, and Tammy Barbati, program division chief. In back, from left, are Richard Perretta, program supervisor; Eric Karmecy of West Central Job Partnership; and Dan Kossack, program coordinator. 

Lawrence County residents are working.

Since Oct. 1, job seekers who visited the Pennsylvania CareerLink site have been hired as registered nurses, an office manager, drivers, positions with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and even as the new site administrator at the 102 Margaret St. office.

Colleen Chamberlain, one of 16 applicants for the job posting, began working Oct. 16.

"There are more jobs available in Lawrence County than there are people to fill them," said Chamberlain. "The economy is good and people are working."

Unemployment is down 3.5 percent nationally, and 4.8 percent in Lawrence County in October, she said.

"There really are not a lot of unemployed people looking for work here," Chamberlain said.

Chamberlain said many come in seeking part-time employment or something to make better use of their skills.

"We can help them to find a better job," she said.

Chamberlain said that with the job market so tight, employers are not as likely to reject someone with a DUI as they once were. Some will even accept individuals without high school diplomas, but often give them six months to get a GED if they are hired.

And, she said, older workers, 62 and older, are popular with employers.

"They are people with experience," she said. "They want a job and they'll show up."

Chamberlain said her oldest client is 96 years old and "wants something to keep him moving" as "he's not slowing down."

From Jan. 1 through September, said Richard Perretta, PA CareerLink program supervisor, 472 jobs were filled or accepted by Lawrence County residents. From September 2018 and September 2019, he said the office assisted in finding jobs for 650 clients.

"This is only the people who were hired using our CareerLink," he said. "Others go on other sites like Monster or Indeed. There are jobs posted all over. I can't keep up with them."

Perretta said the site has 72 new job openings as of Oct. 1.

"This is 230 available positions," he said, noting that some are for multiple positions. "DON Services put out a call for 15 to 20 direct care workers. McDonald's Restaurant is seeking crew members and a lobby person for its various sites. A restaurant  is looking for two cooks, a dishwasher and two waiters."

Not all job openings are entry level, minimum wage jobs, he said, adding that 60 percent are well-paid and provide full-time employment and career opportunities.

He noted that potential employers are seeking or have filled positions for an administrator/ human resources specialist, office manager, appraiser and the Census Bureau came in to fill an opening that would provide full-time employment for four months for $13 to $16 per hour.

The site posts more than 50 health care positions including jobs for nurses, licensed practical nurses, home health care workers and caregivers.

Other jobs exist in the food service industry and in sales, along with welders, plumbers, auto detailers and pizza makers.

"I'm overwhelmed," he said. "I can't keep up with all of the new hirers."

Perretta said few understand all of the services offered through CareerLink. Not only are jobs listed online, he said, but counselors work one-on-one with job seekers to get them into classes, training, certification programs, internships and apprenticeships. They also help with resume writing and advise which job fairs or health fairs to attend that might result in a job offer.

He said the office also has a veterans' counselor who specializes in working with vets to help them to translate their military work, skills and experiences into civilian jobs.

Partnering with PA CareerLink at its New Castle office is West Central Partnership, which offers funds for training and help in writing resumes; Adult Literacy, which helps job seekers to get GEDs; and the office of Vocational Rehabilitation, which assists job seekers with disabilities. Out-of-work clients are also helped with unemployment compensation claims and other services that assist them in obtaining employment.

"We're a busy place," said Eric Karmecy of West Central Job Partnership. "Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, we had 12,570 come through our door. Twice as many seek online services."

Acknowledging that some were repeat visits, he said at least 6,737 were "unique" visits of one-time-only calls.

Perretta said of the CareerLink visitors, "Some are seeking part-time employment, or a better paying job than he or she currently has. Some are laid off or have not worked in a while. Some make multiple visits due to mandatory requirements, for services, to use computers see staff or for classes. 

"Many are newly-laid off or who just lost their jobs. They come in not knowing where to turn, what to do or how to look for another job. They tell us, 'You're the best kept secret in town,' " he said. "They don't realize the employer presence or services available." 

Tammy Barbati, program division chief, said on-the-job training is an important feature offered. Karmecy agreed, noting that some have been out of the job market for some time and need remedial math, language and computer skills.

"We see highly skilled people come in who are not familiar with the job market and need training," Barbati said. \

Through the OJT program, 50 percent of a job applicant's wages are paid during training.

"But we expect that the company will keep them on once they are trained," she said. "There is not much an employer needs that we can't help with."

"We're no longer the unemployment office," she said. "We're the employment office."

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