DEXTER — Officials who regularly work with displaced workers are familiar with the fear, the worry and bewilderment shown by individuals who lose their jobs.
Those same feelings are expected from many of the Dexter Shoe Co. employees who will lose their jobs during the next two months.
The company announced this fall that it would cease manufacturing operations by Jan. 1 and that 475 employees will be permanently laid-off.
But there is hope for these displaced workers through programs offered by the state and federal governments, according to David Klein, principal practitioner for Career Advancement Services at the Training and Development Corp.
TDC is a nonprofit agency in Bangor that partners with Career Centers in the tricounty region of Hancock, Piscataquis and Penobscot counties.
A community transition team is meeting periodically to ensure the workers receive the help they need.
“It’s more of a collection of a broad range of people who have a broad range of ideas,” Klein said. This team is represented by the TDC center and the Skowhegan, Bangor and Dover-Foxcroft career centers because the employees live in 45 towns in five counties. Also represented is the Maine Department of Labor, local adult education, the technical college system, congressional and local representatives, churches and municipal officials.
Last week at the Knights of Columbus Hall, the first in a series of Friday presentations was made to groups of workers to provide them basic information, such as how to draw unemployment, Klein said.
In addition, a temporary transition center to help displaced workers with career opportunities will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday in early November at 26 Main St. in Dexter. It is anticipated that $3 million in federal funds will be secured to cover the operational costs of the center for 27 months.
The Dexter Shoe Co. layoffs, which will begin next month, will be staggered, Klein said.
As work becomes unavailable in a department, the workers in the department will lose their jobs and will begin to participate in the state and federal program offerings.
Klein said he is aware that some previously displaced workers found the wealth of information provided to them after a job loss to be too much, too soon and resulted in confusion.
The programs have been modified over time to take that into consideration.
“It is confusing, but we really try hard to moderate the information,” Klein said. “We’ve really tried hard to be cognizant of that.”
At the career centers, the staff will work with displaced workers on an individual basis. An assessment of skills will be made and a job search made for those skills. The workers will receive help with resumes and information on where to get training, if needed. A peer support group of former Dexter Shoe employees, who were displaced when sister plants closed, also will help the newly displaced workers navigate the system, Klein said.
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