College message to community on IP

Published 9:00 am Saturday, November 7, 2009

All of us at Paul D. Camp Community College were stunned Thursday, Oct. 22, by International Paper Co.’s announcement that the Franklin mill will be closed by Spring 2010. The announced layoffs compound a steady stream of job losses over the past two years (at the Department of Corrections, ATC Panels, Franklin Equipment, IP Lumber Mill, to name a few).

We at the college recognize the devastating impact on lives, families, businesses and communities all over the region. Many of those experiencing these losses are personal friends and colleagues who have taken classes and used services of the college, served on advisory committees and helped the college in other ways. We are grieving already and bracing ourselves for what lies ahead.

Reasons to Hope

While our sense of loss is very deep individually and as a region, we have reasons to hope for the future:

* We have a proud cultural tradition of resilience and mutual support. That tradition was evident in our responses to hurricanes Floyd and Isabel and other challenges. The will to prevail and to stand together in the face of adversity has been expressed again and again and will serve us well now.

* Those losing their jobs have skills and an admirable work ethic that are needed across the region and will be attractive to prospective employers looking for a good work force.

* People acknowledge they need help, including help from God, to deal with the individual and collective challenges ahead. When things are going well, we have a tendency to be self-confident and self-absorbed. I am relieved to hear realistic expressions of need.

* This area has some remarkable entrepreneurs. They are found among small businesses across the region and we have an amazing concentration of them in the business incubator. A spirit of innovation, creativity and risk-taking will go a long way toward building a better future.

* Local, state and national leaders are bringing resources and influence to the table. I believe they genuinely come desiring to be effective partners in support of local efforts to deal with our challenges.

* Finally, we have a wonderful set of community assets, including a great community college.

Your Community College

PDCCC is your community’s college. The college is all about educational access and opportunity and meeting regional needs.

Working with Opportunity Inc, the Virginia Employment Commission and other partners, we will see that career exploration and career counseling resources are provided.

We will make available the necessary assessments for those who want to complete the Career Readiness Certificate required by some regional employers. Computer classes, resume writing, job search workshops and other intensive non-credit short courses will be delivered.

Those who want to pursue credit certificate or degree programs will be given individual advice, placement testing and assistance and informed about options at PDCCC and other colleges and universities. Financial aid information will be provided. Job fairs and other networking opportunities will be hosted by the college.

Working with many other partners, we will deliver an array of services to help those impacted to begin rebuilding their lives and developing a renewed confidence about the future.

Working Together

Many individuals and groups at the college will be involved with these efforts. Randy Betz, vice president of work force development, will play a major role in coordinating the college’s contributions with personnel at the mill and other service providers.

Betz is PDCCC’s representative on Gov. Tim Kaine’s Economic Crisis Strike Force Team and the state’s Rapid Response Team. He participated in similar efforts when the Ford plant closed in Norfolk several years ago.

A seasoned work force development professional, he worked at the Franklin mill for 10 years. He has the experience and skills needed to advise me and coordinate PDCCC’s efforts.

These are difficult times for our communities. Drawing on the resources available to us and pulling together as a region we can — and I believe we will — overcome and build a better future for our area.