Good news on employment

Published 11:19 am Wednesday, May 26, 2010

We were cheered by last week’s news that 25 percent of the workers displaced by the closure of International Paper Co.’s Franklin mill already have landed on their feet — even before the final wave of workers leaves the IP campus on June 30.

Randy Betz, vice president of workforce development for Paul D. Camp Community College, has been tracking the employment of mill workers since IP’s announcement last fall that the mill would close this spring. As of Friday, 275 mill employees had either started other jobs or accepted job offers.

Sadly, a portion of those 275 will be working far away — at other IP facilities, in many cases — and must leave the area. Western Tidewater will miss those families and what they have contributed to our communities, our schools, churches and civic organizations, and our economy.

On a brighter note, better than half of those who have secured new jobs are working locally or within commuting distance — many of them at the Northrop Grumman shipyard in Newport News. That is exciting news — both for the families involved and for Western Tidewater.

Other IP workers were eligible for full retirement benefits and will leave the workforce. We hope they too will continue to call Western Tidewater home.

Much work remains in helping the remaining mill employees have smooth career transitions. The PDCCC Workforce Development Center, under Betz’s leadership and with assistance from partners like Opportunity Inc. and the Virginia Employment Commission, has done tremendous work in reaching out to displaced workers with transition services.

We encourage unemployed workers to take advantage of these services, which range from job-search and resume-writing assistance to skills assessments.