Hiring view muddled

Published 12:32 am Saturday, August 13, 2011

Bishop Samuel Jones pauses for an interview Friday afternoon at the Purpose of God Annex and Outreach Center in Washington. (WDN Photo/Jonathan Clayborne)

Editor’s note: The following concludes a two-part story.


Recent interviews with three area officials highlighted the trouble local businesses and governments have in finding job-seekers who can pass drug tests.

“It is universal to just about all the employers in Beaufort County,” said Patrick Oswalt, manager of the N.C. Employment Security Commission’s Washington office.

But some Washington-area companies report they haven’t experienced head-on clashes with the drug culture.

Among these companies is Fountain Powerboats in Chocowinity.

“We have not had an issue, although almost everybody we’ve hired since I’ve been here has been rehired to Fountain,” said John Walker, who recently took over as company president. “We haven’t been trying to find the unskilled, new-hire type of base.”

Fountain currently has 174 full-time employees, Walker said.

Truck-body-maker VT Hackney of Washington hasn’t “really experienced” drug-related issues with its applicants, according to Diana Yeatts, corporate director of human resources and safety.

“Some of our other locations I’ve had some challenges with it, but not here in Washington,” Yeatts said.

Hackney has four other manufacturing locations, she said.

Store-fixture-manufacturer Impressions Marketing Group of Washington also hasn’t recorded drug-tied difficulties.

“We mostly hire our people in through the temp agency, and they do all that screening before we would get them,” said Delores Moore, office manager. “We do hire straight in, and when we do, we have those drug tested. Most of the (applicants) pass.”

Calls to several other human-resources managers weren’t returned.

Bishop Samuel Jones has confronted Beaufort County’s drug problems head on.

Jones runs Project New Hope at the Purpose of God Annex and Outreach Center in Washington.

Project New Hope gives young adults with felony convictions or other challenges paths to employment by working with business, law enforcement and education partners to prepare participants for new — and hopefully drug-free — lives.

Jones estimates the project has reached more than 2,000 people in the past four years. Of these clients, around 90 percent to 95 percent had drug problems, Jones related.

Since 2007, New Hope has placed 630 to 650 people in jobs with area businesses.

The project has maintained a success rate of 50 percent to 65 percent over the years.

“They’ll return back to the streets if they don’t have an alternative to going back to the streets,” Jones said.

There is a shortage of affordable, long-term care for people grappling with drug addiction, he agreed.

“I come across so many great people who just don’t know how to confront stress and pressure,” Jones said. “They convert to smoking drugs because it suppresses their depression.”

For many, Project New Hope has been a path out of self-destructive lifestyles, he said.

For more on Project New Hope, see a future edition.