Faced with the news that United Chemi-Con plans to lay off a large segment of its workforce, Wilkes Community College (WCC) has announced it plans to help ease displaced workers back into employment
Chris Robinson, Wilkes Community College’s associate vice president of the Ashe campus, painted the broad outlines of how WCC plans to help.
“Obviously, this is a difficult situation. Our role is to help displaced workers,” said Robinson.
According to Robinson, a “rapid response team” will be formed between Chemi-Con’s leadership and locals on Friday to let management know about resources (like WCC) that can help employees.
Besides Wilkes Community College, other groups plan to offer services to help workers, including the Department of Employment Security (DES), the N.C. Department of Commerce, and the High Country Workforce Board.
Robinson said these groups plan to “bring resources and offer services.”
According to Robinson, WCC plans to hold a series of workshops on site to show displaced workers how to file for unemployment benefits, and how workers need to approach their insurance and 401 K’s.
“The important things for workers is to remain calm,” said Robinson.
“Some of these workers haven’t filled out a jobs application or interviewed for a position in over 25 years,” said Robinson.
Because of this, special attention will be paid to updating workers’ resumes and holding mock interviews. “Basically, we’ll teach workers how to market themselves,” said Robinson.
Since United Chemi-Con at Lansing lost jobs to Malaysia, they should be able to apply for the Trade Adjustment Act. If approved, the TAA will provide funds for employees to retrain. Also, TAA will extend unemployment benefits so displaced workers can receive income while in college.
According to Robinson, the majority of retraining through TAA happens through community colleges, and retrained workers have a much higher chance of rejoining the workforce sooner than others.
According to Sandy Calhoun, United Chemi-con’s human resources manager, the layoffs will begin in December and end by March.
Robinson said this means many will be laid off during the middle of the semester.
In spite of this, Robinson said displaced workers can still join during the middle of the semester with a “minimester.” This is a way for workers to get started with a few core classes, like basic computer skills classes and math classes.
Wilkes Community College will assist all of United Chemi-Con’s displaced workers, even if they chose to enroll at another college. WCC will attempt to find local jobs for workers who want to remain in the area.
All of the services offered by WCC are free for those who want to take advantage of them.