Economic anxiety has been running rampant due to hundreds of local manufacturing and wood products industry jobs vanishing. Although the former Fleetwood plant will be reopening under Northwood ownership and creating new jobs, it’s not known if some of the other jobs that have been lost will ever return. But thanks to help from the Training and Employment Consortium and Eastern Oregon University, there is some hope on the horizon.
That’s good, because laid-off workers can become very frustrated. They face bureaucracies that tend to be slow and inflexible when they need speed and flexibility to expedite the process of retraining and finding new employment. They also need hope.
TEC provides some of that hope. The agency helps give laid-off workers career training and job placement services and offers education, employment and personal development opportunities.
Unfortunately, local training opportunities are limited. Often, TEC clients are forced to travel out of the area to get training. And that can be straining not only on already strapped budgets but disruptive to families feeling lots of stress. Here’s hoping TEC can bring in more classes like the one on fiber optic technology recently offered locally to 20 laid-off workers. That’s a skill with real potential for future job growth.
EOU, meanwhile, has stepped up to the training plate, too.With the reintroduction of the associate degree program — offering an associate of arts in education, an associate of arts in administrative management, a certificate in education and a certificate in office management — EOU will expedite retraining without the major upheaval of the displaced worker having to move to a new town. It’s incredibly difficult to change careers midstream in life. Any barriers should be taken down to ease that transition. Having the opportunity to train locally also improves the likelihood that the person will complete the program and be qualified for job opportunities when they arise.
Now more than ever, the area needs to seek ways to add diversity to an ailing economy. We need to beef up our enterprise zones that offer new business incentives. We need to get rid of any perverse disincentives. We need to vigorously recruit jobs that have long-term sustainability and family wages.
For the displaced workers, though, the jobs can’t get here soon enough. But in retraining, it’s now all about long-term goals, not short-term gain. Our sympathies are with them as they undertake this major life challenge of reinventing themselves and betting a job will be there at the end of the process.
As hard as it may be, displaced workers might want to look at layoffs as an opportunity. Not a welcome one, but a necessary one. Now may be the chance to possibly get into the kind of work they’ve always wanted to do, based on best forecasts of what jobs will be available locally or within whatever zone they are willing to relocate to. Thanks to EOU and TEC, the laid-off workers may have more retraining opportunities locally. And any glimmer of hope in these troubling times is welcome.