Employers got jobs to offer, but struggle to fill vacancies

Gemma Koury, of Greensburg, was looking for a job on Monday, checking out the various employers that lined the halls of the PA CareerLink office at Westmoreland County Community College near Youngwood.

“I was looking for something in elderly care,” said Koury, 32, who had been working in a restaurant during Covid and was looking for a career change. She recalled being unemployed for a while during her employer’s Covid-related shutdown and “it rocked my world”.

Koury, who was a caretaker for an elderly woman, was one of about 75 people who walked through the job fair looking for work or opportunities for a career change.

Employers, who set up tables to promote opportunities at their company, competed for workers in a job market where Westmoreland County’s unemployment rate rose to 4.6% in August, up 0.4 percentage points from July , but down 6.2% from July a year ago, according to the state’s Center for Workforce Information and Analysis. In theory, at least, this fall should be a strong market for employers looking for workers, as the county still had 8,100 unemployed in August, up from 10,900 in August 2021, the Workforce Information Center reported.

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For people like Koury and others who are interested in working with older people, there are job opportunities at facilities like Redstone Highlands, which have retirement homes in Greensburg, Murrysville and North Huntingdon, said Leo Stewart, a recruiter for Redstone Highlands.

“People are coming back into the field,” Stewart said after the Covid pandemic devastated the workforce two years ago.

The company has “many” open positions for registered nurses, certified nursing assistants and personal care assistants, Stewart said.

The tight job market has prompted Redstone Highlands, like so many other employers, to raise wages to compete with other similar establishments, Stewart said.

Jesse Rotharmel, a recruiter at Express, a staffing agency in Penn Township, said recruiting from among the job seekers is still not that easy.

“It’s still a fight. It’s up from last year, but not as good as 2019,” Rotharmel said, citing the pool of potential workers looking to fill positions in areas such as manufacturing, retail, hospitality, administration and housekeeping.

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Rotharmel sees a glimmer of hope in the fact that this is the third time he is looking for recruits at the job fair and there were more interested people than at the previous ones.

Many job seekers paused at the Westmoreland Mechanical Testing and Research Inc. table to ask questions about working for the Youngstown manufacturer, said Jared Haines, human resources specialist for the Westmoreland County manufacturer.

“I think there were a lot of people who wanted to work. There was definitely a lot of traffic,” Haines said of the potential candidates inquiring about the company. However, there is no “overabundance” of workers on the job market looking for the type of work the company is offering.

One of the companies with many openings was Intervala, a manufacturer of high-performance printed circuit board assemblies and electromechanical systems at its facility at RIDC Westmoreland, the former Sony Corp. facility. in East Huntingdon. The company’s products are used in the transportation, medical and defense industries.

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“We have about 100 open positions across three shifts,” said Heather Gwynn, talent acquisition specialist at Intervala. Employees work in a clean, air-conditioned environment at the plant, she said.

Unlike manufacturers in heavy industry, workers at Intervala work in a clean, air-conditioned environment because of the nature of the products they make, she said.

The challenge for Intervala, like other manufacturers, is finding people who want to work in their industry, Gwynn said. Those who graduate from high school are often directed down a path to pursue a college education.

“Younger people need to get into manufacturing,” Gwynn said, to fill the jobs left by retirees.

Joe Napsha is a contributor to the Tribune Review. You can contact Joe via email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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