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9/29/11 - W. Pittston Business Finds Filling Jobs Difficult

West Pittston Business Finds Filling Jobs Difficult
Published:  September 29, 2011

WEST PITTSTON - After falling on hard times with the recession, a local manufacturing business is trying to grow and add more high-paying positions, but filling them is the problem.

Additional contracts for companies working in the Marcellus Shale will allow Finch Technology in West Pittston to add 10 to 15 machinist and welding jobs this year, paying $20 an hour with health benefits, to its current workforce of seven skilled manufacturing jobs, said Cliff Fay, managing partner.

Although the unemployment rate surged to 9.8 percent in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area, Fay said he is having difficulty filling jobs for qualified machinists and welders.

"With a combination of Marcellus Shale and the number of people who left the area in manufacturing over the past 10 or 15 years, there is a lack of qualified candidates," Fay said. "We've had 50 applicants and we've been able, out of that pool, to hire two. Of the 25 people who CareerLink provided us out of the 50, 25 don't show up for the interview. It's confusing to a small businessperson when you read unemployment is nearly 10 percent."

On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta put on a hard hat and toured Finch Technology, which was formerly called Finch Machine Company but reopened in March under the new name.

After struggling like other manufacturers during the recession, the company was reborn thanks to local investors and the Northeast region of the Steel Valley Authority-Strategic Early Warning Network, which provides free services aimed at saving manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania, Fay said.

In addition to making parts for companies working in the Marcellus Shale area, the company also makes parts and new units for cement, lime and aluminum kilns and services new and repaired parts for steam locomotives.

Some vocational technical schools and colleges have eliminated sheet metal and machinery courses or have seen a drop in interest in students enrolling in the courses, leading to another problem filling the jobs, said plant manager Bob Piatt. Some people choose not to work there after walking through the shop and seeing the products are so large and the work is not computer-driven, he said.

"That tells us people don't want to do the old conventional-style machinery," Piatt said.

Barletta stressed the need to match people's skills with the needs of local businesses and the jobs available.

"We need to focus on our young people to keep them in the area. Many of them don't believe there's opportunities here in Northeastern Pennsylvania," Barletta said. "We need to get back to the trades because manufacturing is something that's very important. There are many good-paying opportunities right here."

Barletta added he believes federal legislators need to "level the playing field" so companies like Finch Technology can be competitive and secure more work.

"We can do that by lowering the corporate tax rate and get some of the overregulation out of the way," he said.

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