WOODSFIELD - Since future employment at Ormet is uncertain, many displaced workers are training as truck drivers, welders or coal miners at the Monroe County Department of Job and Family Services.
"We had anywhere from 50-75 people show up on Tuesday," said Jeanette Harter, director of the agency in Woodsfield. "Since then, they have continued to trickle in."
"This is just devastating. People are shocked and scared," Harter added regarding the aluminum plant that has now been completely idled for more than a week.
Photo by Casey Junkins
Reviewing paperwork for displaced Ormet employees at the Monroe County Department of Job and Family Services office in Woodsfield are, from left, Laverne Shapley, Jeanette Harter and Bill Long.
Two weeks ago, Ormet President and Chief Executive Officer Mike Tanchuk said the company would cease operations due to high electric bills - a move that cost about 750 workers their jobs, in addition to the 250 who were already laid off. This happened two days after the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio's decided to lower the company's American Electric Power costs from $60 to $50 per megawatt-hour, rather than down to $45.89 per megawatt-hour as Ormet requested.
In February, Ormet filed for bankruptcy in U.S. District Court in Delaware. The company later announced a planned $221 million sale to Minnesota-based Wayzata, but emphasized this transaction required convincing the PUCO to allow Ormet to have lower AEP bills. After the PUCO ruled, Ormet officials said they had to close the plant because the bills are still too high.
Harter said her agency holds teleconferences with officials at the state level each day to determine how they can help.
"This has happened very quickly. We need to get these people working," Harter said, noting her agency was granted $100,000 worth of "rapid response money."
Acknowledging that some Ormet employees live in West Virginia, Harter said Mountain State residents are welcome to seek help from her agency, though she said WorkForce West Virginia should be prepared to assist these workers.
Harter said her office does not directly handle applications for unemployment compensation. Displaced workers seeking these benefits should call 877-644-6562, or go to unemployment.ohio.gov.
What the Woodsfield office does offer, however, is job training for those covered under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act notice that Ormet filed earlier this year. For example, the agency can pay for someone to receive training for a commercial driver's license to become a truck driver.
"We pay the schools for the training they may need. We can also pay for some travel expenses if they need to travel," she said.
Harter said some coal mines are looking for workers, so she can help those considering this career option receive the appropriate training.
"Basically, when they come in, we will see what kind of skills, certifications and experience they have. We will then try to match that with what they may want to do," she said.
Additionally, a pair of one-hour sessions to provide hourly workers a chance to learn about opportunities from trade schools, colleges such as Belmont College and Ohio University, as well as new employers, are scheduled for 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Oct. 22 and 29 at the United Steelworkers' hall in Clarington. A similar session for those who have been salaried will be held Oct. 28 at 9 a.m. at the Clarington fire hall.
Harter said each session is designed to cover everything that a displaced worker needs to know regarding job training and opportunities. The information covered includes resume writing and other job searching techniques.
The agency can be reached at 740-472-1602.