Eighty-five percent of local businesses have had issues filling entry level positions because of applicants failing to pass controlled substance testing, a report conducted by the West Bend School District found.
The information was gathered through a survey distributed by the school district to members of the West Bend Area Chamber of Commerce. The survey was taken by employers of the greater West Bend and Jackson areas, representing almost 5,500 employees.
“It’s certainly a great deal of concern,” Chamber Executive Director Craig Farrell said. He added it’s not possible for employers to hire those who don’t pass a drug screening out of concern for the risk they pose to themselves and others.
Farrell said applicants that don’t pass the test “simply don’t get the job.”
“In the month of April we did 191 tests and 20 did not pass,” Carol Schneider, CEO of SEEK Careers/ Staffing Inc., said.
Schneider said most applicants failing tests are found using marijuana or prescription painkillers.
“Our number right now (of failed tests) is 8 percent of candidates for the year, for the company,” said Steve Waller, regional vice president of QPS Employment Group. He said most of those applicants are using marijuana and many of them are skilled candidates.
For Capt. Tim Dehring of the West Bend Police Department, the reaction to drug use is more than just saying no to an applicant.
“Our job is enforcing the laws,” he said, adding treatment needs to be part of the solution.
The main issue for them is heroin and the abuse of prescription pills, Dehring said.
“It’s a problem we’ve never seen before,” Dehring said. “It’s worse than the crack epidemic.”
There are two things going on here. First, although our culture has become more permissive of the use of marijuana, that permissiveness has not changed the fact that the use of pot is both illegal and dangerous on the job. We are doing a great disservice to our young people by telling them that it’s acceptable to smoke weed (overtly or not) when such use will exclude them from a large percentage of the available jobs.
Second, this is another consequence of the opioid epidemic ravaging Wisconsin. Not only are there the personal consequences for the addicted individuals, we are developing an entire class of unemployable people who will be an ongoing burden to society.