Despite labor shortage, good turnout at PennDOT job fair | Business

SCHUYLKILL HAVEN — The temperature was 87 degrees outdoors Tuesday afternoon, but snowstorms were on Thomas W. Rogal’s mind at PennDOT’s Schuylkill County maintenance facility.

“Winter never really goes away for us,” said Rogal, who manages the facility. “It never leaves our mind.”

More directly, Rogal’s mind was on ensuring there are enough snowplow drivers to clear the highways should a nor’easter blanket the county come December or January.

For four hours, PennDOT solicited applications from prospective workers during a job fair at the Schuylkill Haven facility.

Despite an apparent national shortage of workers, 34 prospective employees showed up at the job fair.

“We had a good cross-dynamic of younger people testing the waters and older people looking for seasonal work,” Rogal said. “I think people are beginning to realize that there are opportunities out there they hadn’t seen before.”

PennDOT’s hoping to hire 12 full-time and five part-time transportation equipment operators in winter seasonal positions in Schuylkill County.

The full-time workers will operate snowplows and do vehicle maintenance over the winter months. The part-timers work only during snowstorms.

The department is also looking to hire a temporary diesel mechanic.

Transportation equipment operator-A positions start at $20.49 an hour. Transportation equipment operator-B positions (A operators with additional training) start at $22.24 an hour. Diesel mechanic positions start at $25.28 an hour, and auto mechanic positions start at $22.24 an hour.

Rogal explained that the seasonal and temporary positions could lead to permanent employment. There are eight permanent positions open due to retirements at the Schuylkill facility, he said.

PennDOT provided job applicants with technical assistance in filling out computerized application forms. Interviews were conducted on the spot.

Applicants with commercial driver’s licenses were given road tests in PennDOT trucks.

Dave Fidler, 62, a Pine Grove truck driver with a CDL, took a road test.

Recently retired, Fidler said he has driven tractor-trailers and an array of trucks and heavy equipment in the construction industry. He previously taught heavy equipment classes at Schuylkill Technology Center.

“I retired in April, and I’m looking for seasonal work,” Fidler said. “PennDOT needs people, so maybe I can help them and myself at the same time.”

PennDOT employs 71 transportation equipment operators in Schuylkill Haven, Rogal said.

They run 10-wheel trucks capable of hauling up to 15 tons of salt.

Mounted with a front plow and a 3-foot-wide wing plow, the apparatus is capable of clearing a 14-foot-wide swath through the snow.

Behind the wheel, seated in what Rogal described as a cockpit, the operator controls the front and wing plows, as well as the rear salt spreader — all while watching for traffic and pedestrians.

“They’ve got a lot on their minds,” said Rogal, a 26-year veteran with the department. “It’s a demanding job, but it’s very rewarding when you get people to work and home safely.”

Last winter, the Schuylkill facility spread 17,784 tons of salt and 277,823 gallons of brine in an average snowfall of 34 inches, according to PennDOT statistics. The cost was $6 million, $1.9 million over the $4.1 million budgeted.

In District 5, which encompasses Schuylkill and four surrounding counties, PennDOT spent $28.3 million tending roadways last winter.

PennDOT will be accepting job applications at the Job & Education Fair from 10 am to 4 pm Sept. 28 at Fairlane Village Mall.

Information on employment is available by calling the Schuylkill maintenance facility at 570-385-7812 or visiting penndot.pa.gov.

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