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Anchor workers check out their options at career fair

| Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2004

More than 100 workers left jobless by Anchor Hocking Glass Container Corporation's Nov. 4 closure attended a job fair Monday at the South Connellsville Fire Hall.

Sponsored by the West Virginia Career Institute in Mount Braddock, the fair attracted employers, training centers and the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Schwann's, Cavanaugh Trucking, VeriFast Windshield Repair, Clean Care Company and Midland National Life Insurance Company brought information about jobs; WVCI, All State Career School, Laurel Business Institute, Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus, Douglas Education Center, Westmoreland County Community College tractor-trailer driver training, the Education Technology Institute and Triangle Tech provide information about retraining for new careers.

Amanda Rugg, admissions representative for the West Virginia Career Institute, was pleased at the turnout.

"These folks want to stay as close to home as possible. The atmosphere has been very positive, people are very receptive, open to getting information," she said.

More than 48 percent of Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus' students are 24 or older and Louis Ridgely, assistant director of student affairs at the Adult Learning Center, hopes that some of Anchor's unemployed will enroll.

Degree-seeking adult learners can take as few as six credits per semester to qualify for financial aid and adult learners do not need to take the SAT. The spring semester begins Jan. 10.

Ridgely said that several dozen people at the career fair signed up for more information about Penn State programs, with most expressing an interest in studies that will lead to professional-level careers such as human development and family services, nursing, information sciences and teaching certification.

"The main thing is confidence, it's critical for any adult learner to know that they can succeed in college," Ridgely said.

All State Careers is involved in the tractor-trailer driver training program at Westmoreland County Community College. Representative Chuck Morris said that a number of the school's students have entered the program due to company layoffs and plant closures; about 10 percent of students are women.

"It's going to be a big undertaking for people with families," Morris said of future careers. He said that All State works with 40 to 50 companies to place its graduates in jobs and that truckers can earn about $30,000 their first year; after two years, wages increase by several thousand dollars. The programs last one to six months and financial aid is available.

"Trucking is a good field, both in terms of earnings and there is a good demand for drivers; 250,000 new truck drivers will be needed over the next 10 years," Morris said.

Jobless Anchor employees found the fair informative, but are keeping their career options open.

Lloyd Martin of Connellsville worked as an Anchor machine operator for 37 1/2 years. "I came because it's an opportunity to see what's available." He said that he didn't find anything specific. "I want to see all my options. I don't want to jump into anything."

Tom Kimmel of Mount Pleasant worked at Anchor for 29 years, most recently in the loading department. "I've gotten information about different schools, but nobody knows if we'll have to pay for it." He is interested in accounting.

Jody Ebbert of Connellsville worked as an Anchor maintenance electrician for 15 years. She picked up information about training, but worries about the cost.

"I have no money for school," she said.

She's interested in computer or medical jobs and will travel for work, but she does not want to leave the area. "I've been here for 47 years. My family's here. I'm not leaving."

Following the fair, Locals 124, 136, 139 and 149 of the Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics and Allied Workers International Union held a private meeting to discuss Anchor's severance package.

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