Laid-off workers find help, advice at WIB workshop

Monday, November 5, 2001

Sandra Estes wants to become a chef.

Her daughter, Kristal Ward, is not sure what she faces.

Michelle Lincoln wants to become a medical administrator.

Everett and Norma James are still looking at their options.

They are like thousands of Americans these days -- they have been laid off. Over the past six months, total employment has fallen by 1.2 million, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Southeast Missouri has not been left unscathed. Estes, Lincoln, the Jameses and Ward are among 138 employees without jobs following the Sept. 29 closing of Paramount Head Wear of Marble Hill, Mo. Most employees were involved in some type of sewing work. Paramount is moving its operations to China.

Employees figured Paramount's closure was coming, but "we didn't really want to believe it," said Betty Faulkner, who had been employed at the factory more than 30 years.

The Missouri Department of Economic Development's Division of Workforce Development offers a lending hand. A crowd of former Paramount employees attended a five-day "customer service workshop" held last week at the Marble Hill United Methodist Church, by members of the Workforce Investment Board, which is a part of the Division of Workforce Development. Eight area employers, including Cape America, Thorngate and Major Custom Cable, attended the workshop.

Also there were some employees from Solar Communications in Perryville, Mo., where 50 layoffs were reported recently.

Some of the employees will be looking for new jobs and job training, said June O'Dell, training manager for the Private Industry Council of Southeast Missouri.

That's exactly what Estes is thinking. She is considering attending the Cape Girardeau School District's new Career and Technology Center for training to become a chef.

"I worked at Paramount 13 years," said Estes. "It's time for a change in careers."

Lincoln agreed.

"I've already been accepted to attend school at the Administrative Healthcare Institute at Cape Girardeau," Lincoln said.

But not everyone has a plan yet.

"We don't know what we're going to do," said Norma James. She worked at Paramount for 34 years, her husband for nine.

"This is part of what the Workforce investment Board of Southeast Missouri is about," said a WIB spokesman Cleat Stanfill. "The WIB is helping people find jobs, and helping employers find good employees."

Manufacturing industries have accounted for 37 percent of all mass layoffs over the past two months. Many sectors suffered layoffs -- air and other transportation, public utilities, hotels agriculture, even retail workers.

Besides Paramount and Solar, BioKyowa Inc., a manufacturer in Nash Road Industrial Park near Cape Girardeau, has announced that 45 to 50 employees will lose their jobs in March. Burkhart Foam Co., Cairo, Ill., closed Oct. 1, with 100 jobs lost. At one time, the plant employed 500.

335-6611, extension 133

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