Shawn Payne, an instructor at Owensboro Community and Technical College, knows how to reach the dislocated workers in his Quick Jobs class at the college. He was once one of them. Payne was laid off in 2005 from Premium Allied Tool. Like many impacted by the recent plant closings and layoffs he was able to enroll at OCTC to complete a retraining program and finish a degree. He was eventually hired by the college to teach highly sought after skills in advanced manufacturing.
The Quick Jobs program is a partnership between OCTC, the Green River Workforce Investment Board, and the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. to provide retraining options in high demand areas. Many dislocated workers are coming out of jobs in production and product assembly processes where few similar jobs exist, not only regionally, but nationally.
“We have a workforce in transition,” said EDC President Nick Brake. “The manufacturing workforce has changed significantly in the last couple of years. Production jobs have been eliminated by automation or exported elsewhere. Most jobs in manufacturing require skilled technicians that can operate and maintain a piece of high tech equipment.”
The manufacturing workforce is also been impacted by a large number of skilled technicians that will become eligible for retirement in the next couple of years. “Nearly half of the skilled workforce in the aluminum industry in Hancock County will likely retire in the next three years,” said Brake. “Retraining programs like Quick Jobs will be critical in meeting the needs of our existing companies in years to come.”
At OCTC, the IMAC or Industry-Based, Modular, Accelerated Credentials emphasizes the Industrial Maintenance skills most in demand in the advanced manufacturing facilities in the region. Instructors like Payne use a hybrid learning model that lets students combine interactive, Web-based classes with hands-on, job-specific skills through simulations and in an open lab. Students can set their own schedules, learn at their own pace and earn college credits toward a degree.
In addition to advanced manufacturing, the Quick Jobs model provides training options in other high demand areas, such as allied health, medical billing, energy, welding, and construction. “Energy is another growth area in the Green River region,” said Tonya Logsdon, associate director of the Green River Workforce Investment Board at GRADD which administers the funding for many of the dislocated worker programs. “An aging workforce in the energy sector combined with new opportunities emerging in coal, and new alternative energy processes will mean opportunities for future workers requiring skills in instrumentation, electrical technology, and coal technology.”
Construction is another area where there will likely be opportunity in the coming months for skilled workers, according to Logsdon. “With all the construction projects planned from the new hospital to new roads and school projects, we expect a significant need from the local workforce.”
In health care, OCTC@OMHS is the work-based associate degree program for employees of OMHS to work toward a nursing degree. Hospital employees now working in entry-level jobs such as nurse assistant, medical assistant, housekeeper, clerk and patient care technician are eligible to apply for the program. It is expected to help the hospital train the work force it needs as it moves forward with an expansion that will require more than 500 additional nursing jobs over five years.
“Our community college is a huge asset in the work we do with dislocated workers, “Brake said. “While a plant closing is never a good situation, we’re able to provide affected workers the opportunity to receive free retraining all the way to a postsecondary degree. This not only benefits the worker, but allows the community to retool its workforce in high-growth areas.”
“There are success stories out there in almost every sector of the regional economy,” said Logsdon. “The program is designed to make a difference for people as they face the future after a layoff.”