Job Fairs at Perry County JobSight Drawing Hundreds Seeking Underground Mining Jobs
In eastern Kentucky, underground coal mining operations
are almost always seeking miners, and countless people are almost
always seeking the good-paying jobs those mines provide.
County JobSight workforce center has proven itself an effective
matchmaker in bringing both of those sides together for several
key members of the area’s coal industry.
Since April, about 450 applicants have attended job fairs hosted
by JobSight for coal companies including TECO
River Coal Company, International
Coal Group (ICG), and P&P Construction.
At those events, applicants came to the JobSight workforce center
operated by the L.K.L.P.
Community Action Council at Jeff to fill out job applications
and take mechanical aptitude tests. Many of them were either
hired based on their previous mining experience, or accepted
into training programs for those new to underground mining.
Charles Frazier, a human resources officer with TECO subsidiary
Perry County Coal, said the company simply could not do large
scale recruiting efforts without the help of JobSight.
“The services the JobSight provided have been very instrumental
in allowing us to achieve our hiring goals,” he said.
The Perry County JobSight is part of the JobSight
network of workforce centers administered in 23 eastern
Kentucky counties by the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment
Program, Inc. (EKCEP). JobSight “one-stop” workforce
centers give job seekers and employers access to over a dozen
state and federal employment and training programs and employer
services at a single location.
Perry County JobSight Manager Jack
Duff said he sees JobSight’s role in the job fairs
as “helping companies find the right people for the right
Surface mining is much like construction work, Duff said, but
underground mining requires special skills and temperament,
as well as extreme safety consciousness. As a result, fewer
people are fit for the job and companies have a “desperate
need” for experienced underground miners.
That’s why the Perry County JobSight’s coal job
fairs are primarily aimed at getting miners into “Red
Hat” programs that provide essential hands-on, on-the-job
training for new miners.
Some of these training programs are funded with grants obtained
through the Kentucky
Community and Technical College System (KCTCS). At times,
EKCEP contributes employers’ required share of the training
funding, meaning some employers participate in the programs
at little or no cost to them.
These training programs make it easy for a company to bring
on a whole new group of miners, Duff said.
Companies can also be sure miners who have finished the program
have the necessary safety training and experience to begin working
underground, he said.
The largest of the recent JobSight job fairs was a two-week
event held in late July and early August for TECO, which drew
263 jobseekers hoping to be chosen for 24 spots in TECO’s
Red Hat program.
This high level of interest in underground mining jobs is understandable,
Duff said, considering starting salaries for experienced miners
can be more than $35,000 a year.
TECO’s program starts with a one-week class teaching general
mining and safety information.
This is followed by another week during which trainees learn
specific information about the mine where they will be working,
such as mine, ventilation and roof control plans, and where
to barricade underground in case of an accident, Frazier said.
Participants also tour the mine that week.
From the time the training starts, the miners make $15 an hour
and get raises as they complete different levels of the Red
Hat training until they hit $18.50 an hour, Frazier said.
When they are trained to operate a specific piece of equipment,
they will get an additional raise based on the pay scale for
operators of that piece of equipment.
Frazier said the company plans to run two classes—one
general program for 14 non-experienced miners and another program
for 10 non-experienced miners who have shown a high level of
mechanical aptitude for construction, welding, or other experienced
activities. The latter group of miners might be more likely
to do well in specialized jobs performing tasks like servicing
equipment, he said.
Miners brought on through these training programs are more likely
to stay with the company longer than miners recruited by other
means, Frazier said. That’s because the programs help
engender loyalty in the trainees, he said.
Representatives from other area coal companies also praised
JobSight job fairs as an efficient recruiting tool.
Dan Fields with P & P Construction was pleased that 40 people
showed up for the company’s job fair held April 25.
Fields wanted to hold a job fair to seek out miners who already
had experience. He was impressed by how well the JobSight staff
were able to meet his request and the number of applicants the
job fair drew.
“From now on, I’m going to have (our job fairs)
at JobSight,” Fields said.
Other companies such as James River Coal and ICG chose to participate
in job fairs to attract people to Red Hat programs similar to
Danny Sorrells, human resources director for James River Coal
subsidiaries Blue Diamond Coal and Leeco, Inc., said he was
pleased with the job fair held for the company on June 10.
“It was a tremendous help,” Sorrells said.
About 41 people showed up for the James River Coal job fair,
and 14 were eventually chosen for the company’s Red Hat
program, Duff said.
Donna Johnson, L.K.L.P.
Manpower director, said that in James River Coal’s case,
L.K.L.P. was able to use Workforce Investment Act (WIA) funds
to pay for necessary starting equipment for the trainees, including
hardhats, a light and charger, a belt, kneepads, mining boots,
and leather gloves.
Duff said the ICG job fair May 30 was also successful, drawing
105 applicants and getting about 14 of them into the company’s
Red Hat training program.
For additional information on the JobSight network
or EKCEP’s employer services, call EKCEP Business Solutions
Manager Crawford Blakeman
at 606-436-5751, Perry County JobSight Manager Jack
Duff at 606-436-3161.