Employment is an essential part of any path to recovery
Original Source: npr.org
It’s hard enough for employers to find workers to fill open jobs these days, but on top of it, many prospective hires are failing drug tests.
The Belden electric wire factory in Richmond, Ind., is taking a novel approach to both problems: It now offers drug treatment, paid for by the company, to job applicants who fail the drug screen. Those who complete treatment are also promised a job.
The pilot program, launched in February, is believed to be the first of its kind, and is an acknowledgement of both the severity of the drug problem, and the difficulty of finding qualified workers.
“If we did the same things as we did in the past, we weren’t going to be successful in hiring the folks we needed,” says Doug Brenneke, Belden’s vice president of research and development, who helped start the program.
Doug Brenneke, Belden’s vice president of research and development, says the company has faced a severe shortfall of workers for at least two years. Meanwhile, the drug test failure rate has nearly tripled. Yuki Noguchi/NPR
Belden has made electrical cables at its Indiana factory near the Ohio border for nearly a century. Its early customers included Thomas Edison, and now its 14-acre factory extrudes, weaves and coats wires that are used to hook up TVs and Internet routers around the world.
As the the second-largest employer in Wayne County, Belden is at the center of a company town. Its fate is intertwined with that of the community around it, in part because so many local families have a shared history with the company.
Louis Hubble is a 35-year company veteran. Between aunts, uncles, parents, and siblings, he says, his family has over 300 years of service at Belden — a phenomenon not uncommon in this area.
“When I first was hired in here, you had to be careful if you said anything about someone, because you’d be talking about their brother or their sister or their cousin or their aunt or uncle,” Hubble says.
Years ago, his sister also worked at Belden, before switching careers. She died of an opioid addiction at age 44 in 2012, leaving her three children behind.
“And I’m not gonna lie, I miss my sister to this day,” Hubble says, pausing to contain his emotion.
“I always look back and say, ‘What more could we have done?’ “