MVMC Updated on Building Drug-Free Workforce

CANFIELD, Ohio — Technical and career centers in the Mahoning Valley have begun a program where students commit to abstain from illicit drugs, which makes them more qualified to enter the workforce.

“We have a huge problem with drugs in the area and people can’t hire employees because people can’t pass a drug test,” the career development coordinator at Trumbull Career and Technical Center, Cara DeToro, said Friday.

The Trumbull center, as well as the Mahoning County and Columbiana County career and technical centers have introduced Drug-Free Clubs of America into their schools this year and already have seen benefits, officials reported Friday at the quarterly meeting of the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition.

The MVMC is an organization composed of more than 100 companies that represent private industry, development organizations, trade schools and high schools, and universities and community colleges in the region.

Drug-Free Clubs of America works by allowing students to join the club if they volunteer to sign up for random drug tests.

“Drug-free Clubs of America gave us an opportunity to drug test our students here at the career center with an outside agency,” said John Zehentbauer, MCCTC assistant superintendent.

A student can list the club on his resume to show employers before an interview that he is drug-free.

“We strongly encourage you as manufacturers, if a student is coming out of the career centers to ask, ‘Do you have a drug-free club card? Have you been drug tested at your school?’ They will tell you,” Zehentbauer said.

The centers offer incentives to encourage students to abstain from drugs and join their clubs.

For students to have certain privileges at the Trumbull center, such as driving and parking their cars at the school, they must volunteer to be tested for drugs, DeToro said.

Any student who signs up to undergo such a test at Columbiana’s technical center can win a $50 gift card for gas or food in a raffle, said its director and assistant superintendent, Jeremy Corbisello.

So far, Corbisello reported, 158 of the 400 students have signed up to be tested.

Having a successful drug-free workforce policy is a factor in a company’s liability should an accident occur, Natasha Cramer, a counselor at Meridian Healthcare, said.

A good policy outlines in great detail each step of the process of random screens, reasonable suspicion, post-accident testing and return-to-work agreements, Cramer said.

“The more detailed you are, the more covered you are for liability reasons,” she said. “Detail workplace policies as if it’s the person’s first day on this planet.”

Companies should also provide resources for employee support, hold annual meetings for employee and supervisors on drug education, update employees on changes in policy and refer back to the policy often.

Cramer also noted a company should mention medical marijuana in its policy because use could rise now that Riviera Creek Holding LLC was awarded one of 12 provisional Level I licenses to grow medical marijuana at 1275 Crescent St. in Youngstown.

She said, “Seventy percent of the estimated 14.8 million Americans who report using illegal drugs are employed.” The No. 1 illegal drug used at work is marijuana and the No. 1 legal drug abused is alcohol. “Eleven percent of workplace fatalities show victims have been drinking at the time of the incident,” Cramer said.

Common red flags that should alert an employer that an employee is addicted to drugs or alcohol are: changes in his behavior, lying, frequent complaints of not feeling well, pulling away from co-workers whom one normally hangs out with, more injuries on and off the job, and changes in the pace in completing assignments.

Members received an update on the Mahoning Valley Innovation and Commercialization Center, an advanced manufacturing lab that will work as a collaborative innovation center for high school and college students, entrepreneurs, engineers, machinists and welders.

Leaders in the project are interviewing design and building firms, Darrell Wallace, associate professor of manufacturing engineering at Youngstown State University, said.

“Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition will be the voice to shape what goes into that building,” Wallace said.

MVMC is partnering for the project with YSU, Eastern Gateway Community College, the Mahoning County commissioners, the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition, Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana career and technical centers, the Choffin school and the Youngstown Business Incubator.

Pictured at top: Natasha Cramer, counselor at Meridian Healthcare, addresses members of the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition.

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