Job seekers, employers look for matches

On Wednesday, about 30 local businesses and services gathered at the Clarion Mall with a common goal, finding employees.

“There are about 2,000 job opportunities in Clarion County,” said Tracy Becker, Executive Director of the Clarion Area Chamber of Business and Industry, who hosted the event. “We want to be able to provide the opportunity for the business that is looking for employees to showcase themselves.

“We have new businesses opening up and they need workers,” she said. “I want them to stay here. There are other businesses that want to come into the area but they can’t unless there are enough workers.

“What I hear from many people are concerns over child care and transportation,” said Becker. “I know we need day care centers in the area.”

The vendors attending the fair were different this year. “Normally we would get the housing manufacturers but this year we had only one. We have a lot of services here. Many of those are desk jobs. We have the U.S. Postal Service for the first time,” said Becker.

To attract new employees the county has increased the hourly rate and is looking into a four-day, 40-hour work week. The county also offers 13 paid holidays.

“We would also like to offer a day care in partnership with other entities,” she said.

Heather Terbine, the recruiter for Kronospan in Shippenville was looking for about 15 people with various skills. Kronospan employees about 230 people in its two local facilities.

“There are a lot of opportunities presented here today,” she said. “There is a lot of competition for employees. I feel we are a good option.

“I think the workforce in general has changed,” said Terbine. “There are some people who are pursuing higher education before entering the workforce. The market has changed since COVID. I look for people who like to be busy.

Terbine is hopeful the labor situation will improve. “I don’t think it is a dying workforce,” she said. “I do get applicants consistently. There are some good candidates out there. It’s just a matter of looking for them. There are also people out there who are currently employed and are looking for a change.

Terbine said that often it is mater of matching the applicant to the position. “It is a matter of matchmaking. I have a variety of positions available and can match the candidate to a position. We also do a lot of training in-house.”

Terbine said people have the wrong idea of the Kronospan plant. “They think of something dingy and dirty but our plant is highly automated. It’s fun to watch,” she said.

Clarion County Commissioner Wayne Brosius serves on the Northwest Workforce Development board. The board covers Erie, Crawford, Venango, Clarion, Warren and Forest counties.

“The board helps employers connect with employees,” said Brosius. “The board has a lot of federal and state training money available. If someone lacks skills they can get training. We have more money available. We need more applicants.

“It seems the main problem is a lack of bodies. There are some people who don’t want to work and the pandemic exacerbated the problem. There was so much free money from the upper levels of government and people got used to staying at home.”

Amanda Carbaugh, the Human Resources Director for Clarion County, is responsible for hiring for the county. “Some positions are easier to fill than others,” she said. “Some of those positions require a certain education level. We are always looking for Children and Youth Services caseworkers. The staffing there is only at 60%. We also need corrections officers. We just lost four people at the prison.

“I think we are bumping back up. There is a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.

“This is our first job fair of the season,” said Becker. “We have 33 businesses and services here today including several new businesses that have not been here before. The first few hours we had quite a few people come through and visit.”

Becker said the next job fair will be held on June 7 at the Clarion Mall. “School will be over and a lot of students will be looking for seasonal jobs an opportunity to interact with businesses,” said Becker.