The United Chemi-Con plant in Lansing laid off 72 more employees last week.
Responding to these job loses, Wilkes Community College (WCC) has rallied around the displaced workers and coordinated a “rapid response team,” which offered workers information and training to assist them with new employment opportunities.
Becky Greer, the Human Resources Development director at Wilkes Community College, has been involved in the first rapid response meetings for displaced United Chemi-Con workers. Greer said the team has met with everyone who’s positions are being terminated at least twice to give them important information.
“It’s an opportunity for folks to know what their options are during this life-changing event (becoming unemployed),” said Greer.
To date, 121 workers have been displaced since the layoffs were first announced in November 2012. According to Sandra Calhoun, the plant’s human resources manager, 20 more workers will lose their jobs by April-May, ending the layoffs.
“It’s heartbreaking to see when a number of employees who have worked for Chemi-Con for years are being laid off,” said Ashe County Manager Dr. Pat Mitchell when she first heard about the layoffs.
Calhoun felt the same way, but said the rapid response meetings have really made a difference for displaced workers.
“They (WCC) have went way beyond expectations for what they’ve done,” said Calhoun.
To further aid the workers, classes have been prepared at WCC through human resources development. The class “Exploring Technology for the Job Seeker” begins on April 9, and ends on May 23.
In this class, students will learn job search strategies, along with how to create a “job winning” resume, learn how to upload their resume to job applications, and answer difficult application questions.
In addition, students will use computers as vehicles to learn these new skills, which will improve workers’ computer skills.
Students benefit from this program in other ways as well.
When a displaced worker enrolls in an HRD class, the Division of Workforce Solutions (DWS) will allow them to draw severance pay and unemployment benefits at the same time.
According to Greer, this provides additional assistance for displaced workers who have suddenly seen their income decrease.
“Also, HRD is a transition course for those who want to go back to school,” said Greer.
Greer also said the state allows WCC to waive student fees for registered students if they are unemployed, under-employed or have lost their jobs.
The layoffs at United Chemi-Con began in the wake of the devastating tsunami that struck Japan in 2011. The tsunami’s impact was felt at the Lansing plant because United Chemi-Con is subsidiary of the Japanese company Nippon Chemi-Con.
The natural disaster, along with a slow economy, resulted in United Chemi-Con’s Lansing plant losing one of its lines to Malaysia, according to Calhoun.
However, this allowed United Chemi-Con to file for the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act, which allows employees who have been displaced because of foreign competitors to extend their unemployment benefits, health-insurance and training benefits. Additional training assistance is also available through the WARN Act.