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CareerForce strives to retain regional workers

PIPESTONE — The CareerForce job assistance offices in Greater Minnesota have had a stretch of busy months, largely because of a series of shutdowns by major employers.

The latest such situation, involving the closure of the J&B Group Meats plant in Pipestone, is being addressed with individualized worker services which include an area job fair from 1-5 p.m. Tuesday at the Minnesota West Pipestone campus.

CareerForce staff said the plant shutdown will affect 139 workers around Thanksgiving. Ninety of them have met with a job assistance counselor.

Tuesday’s job fair is expected to include about 50 local and regional employers. It is open to the public with no admission charge.

“A large share of laid-off workers want to stay within driving distance of where they live,” said CareerForce dislocated worker specialist Julie Beckmann. “Their family is here and their support system is here. Moving a family is much more of a challenge than a move that only involves one individual.”

She said those affected by layoffs involving a large employer often fit into the category of dislocated workers. The dislocated status means that the jobs they held no longer exist in their local area and are not likely to return.

The list of layoff events from the past 18 months includes former employers such as MTI in Montevideo, Archon in Wood Lake, Shopko in Marshall, and community nursing homes in Balaton and Slayton.

“We’ve had a stretch of situations that involved large numbers of workers,” said regional CareerForce Executive Director Carrie Bendix.“There’s almost always more to the re-employment process than just finding another place to work. Usually an individual has to look at possibilities with some of the most in-demand career areas and also the possibility of getting new credentials with more education.”

She noted that recent layoffs have involved several different areas of rural Minnesota’s economy. Some of them centered around manufacturing, while others have involved retail or health care.

Manufacturing is often the job market area most likely to result in a career change. Many of the workers possess technical skills that can be channeled into job areas likely to lead to secure employment.

CareerForce re-employment specialist Tim Jones said many of those affected by health care layoffs have chosen to stay in health care and to pursue degrees that will lead to registered nurse or licensed practical nurse status.

“The retraining aspect of a job search is something that can lead to opportunities,” Jones said. “It’s an investment that could pay off with a higher-paying job. Otherwise it’s very likely that they’ll only have starting wages with a new employer. Those who built up longevity and earned pay raises are often the ones who experience the worst pay cuts.”

He said 210 people successfully took part in the dislocated worker program between July 2018 and June, 2019. Totals for 2019-2020 are on pace to go beyond that number.

“We consider re-employment to be successful if workers can earn 80 percent of their prior pay level,” Jones said. “Many of them earn less than before. For some it turns out about the same and others actually end up making more. Education and high-demand skills are often what makes the difference.”

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