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With All This Unemployment, Where Are The Workers?

In the midst of a dismal economy characterized by high unemployment, it seems counterintuitive to hear companies say they are having trouble finding qualified employees. Such is the case for many companies. It’s not that there aren’t workers—it’s simply that there aren’t qualified or skilled workers for these positions.

One area that troubles many distributors in any economy is that of the truck driver. Back in 2010, Welding & Gases Today had an entire issue devoted to drivers in the industry. In “Behind The Wheel,” Barton’s Welding Supply Owner Randa Cannon said, “In a small area, it’s hard to find drivers. People with the qualifications want to drive 18-wheelers.” Along with a clean driving record, distributors say drivers need to be able to pass a drug test, have decent math, written and recordkeeping skills, and be able to pass government background checks.

An interesting story this week touched on a movement that may widen the field of potential drivers. The DOT is considering the approval of deaf and hard-of-hearing drivers for full CDL licenses. Without a full CDL, such drivers cannot partake in interstate commerce. Communication is, without a doubt, important for drivers. Distributors have described their drivers as “the eyes and ears” of their company, since they are in close contact with the customer. Although it might present some challenges, this would be a new field of drivers available for jobs.

In other job-related news, Air Products CEO John McGlade was featured on CBS News discussing the challenge of finding skilled workers. Cuts to vocational programs, he says, are exacerbating the situation. But industry members are not without means to change this situation. Distributors and suppliers play an important role in attracting young people to these skilled jobs.

Question of the Day: What are your staffing challenges? How are you responding to these challenges?

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