While the exact form of the transition programs available to the soon-to-be laid off Gates Corp. employees is unknown, Wilkes Community College is already offering its assistance.
“We will be starting off with a meeting with the management team from Gates the first week of September,” said Chris Robinson, dean of the Ashe and Allegheny Campus of WCC.
Robinson said WCC’s Human Resource Development department will then have informational sessions for employees about resumes, financial planning and applying for benefits. These sessions will continue into October.
“Those classes are held at the facility and tentatively will be held at different times to handle different schedules,” Robinson said.
The one question mark for the Gates employees will be whether or not they will qualify for assistance from the Trade Assistance Act, which offers benefits that include relocation and job search financial assistance, re-employment services and workforce training – which WCC provides.
If TAA is approved, workers will have 26 weeks to file for individual benefits.
“We stand ready to serve these folks,” Robinson said. “If the trade adjustment petition is approved, we will be offering multiple retraining opportunities and if it’s not approved, we’ll look at other sources of funds that might be available for short term training.”
Justin Boulmay, Communications and Outreach Specialist for the N.C. Division of Workforce Solutions said the Department of Labor has 40 days from the filing date of the petition to investigate and make a final decision. The DOL has not made a decision yet.
If the petition does not go through, there are still options available to those being laid off.
“If trade adjustment funding is not going to be available then (workers) will want to file for unemployment when they are laid off,” Larry Parker, spokesperson for the Department of Commerce said.
When filing for unemployment in North Carolina, applicants must accurately report the reason they are unemployed, be actively available and searching for work and report any wages received from temporary work.
Tom Reeve, vice president of Gates Corporation, said that all notices have been filed and workers will be given severance pay based on their length of service.
In order to receive TAA benefits, the DOL must see foreign trade as a factor of the job loss. The plant jobs will be relocated to Arkansas, where Gates already has a plant.
On July 26, the Denver-based company filed a WARN Act notice with the N.C. Department of Commerce. Gates will lay off 247 employees at its Ashe County plant.
The notice lists capacity reallocation and plant consolidation as reasons the company is moving out of Jefferson.
“The first separation from employment is expected to occur on 10/4/2013. There is no union representative and there are no bumping rights,” Stacy Winsett, Vice President of HR at Gates wrote in the notice.
Wilkes Community College has stepped up to help other workers who were previously laid off, including those who worked at the United Chemi-Con and Leviton factories.
“We’ll keep seeking all the assistance we can find so they have the opportunity to retrain,” Robinson said.