WILTON — They are seasoned workers who have sharpened communication skills, honed their interview techniques, developed resumes and portfolios, and learned new technology to take them to the next step of their journey.

Most of them had lost their jobs with Wausau Paper in Jay after decades of working at the mill.

The mill shut its doors in June leaving 200 workers without jobs within a 10-month period.

The resumes and portfolios displayed on a table listed the dislocated workers as multi-taskers, team leaders and reliable workers.
Their skills ranged from millwrights to electricians to emergency coordinators and safety facilitators.

It was a special celebration they earned as they graduated from Maine’s WorkReady Program at the CareerCenter in Wilton. They completed the 60-hour training course under the guidance of instructor Eileen Miazga.

As cement barriers were being placed around portions of entrances on the outside of the paper mill in Jay, these laid-off workers were praised for their positive attitudes and for taking the steps to move themselves forward. They were encouraged to be proactive and remain confident.

“You are actually people who are in demand, seasoned and older workers,” Jim Baumer, director of business services for the Central/Western Maine Workforce Investment Board. “You have amazing skills … you are going to be people who employers are going to look at.”

Baumer challenged them to go on and be the best they can be.

Twenty-five years ago, Debbie Kendall of Livermore, didn’t need a resume to land a job at the mill. She went through multiple interviews and the job was hers.

The hardest part is building up your character, Kendall said. Going through the WorkReady program has prepared her to move forward. She is the peer supporter for the final group of laid-off workers.

After that, she’s not sure.

“I’m hoping I can work with other people,” Kendall said. She has thought of going on to college to become a social worker or substance abuse counselor. She’ll look at the opportunities available.

Arnold Couture of Jay is an electrician. He did have a resume when he got the job 26 years ago but it was a lot simpler then, he said.

He wants to go to college for electronics or robotics.

Philip Dufour of Jay took the course to get his bearings.

“I felt very unprepared. I felt I needed some restructuring and direction. When you’re looking at 33 years of doing one thing and then all of a sudden, no job. I needed to learn how to interview.”

He’s hoping he’ll qualify for the federal trade assistance program to go on to school. He’s thinking heating and ventilation.
He wants to get a license or certificate for something useful in the end, because without that, he doesn‘t expect to find a good job, he said.

Steve Richards of Jay, really didn’t want to go to school.

“I’m 54, pushing 55, but I’m still looking at my options,” he said. “That is why I took this WorkReady Program to improve yourself and help me in making decisions to help me get through.”

Randy Berry of Livermore is hoping more dislocated workers will take advantage of the WorkReady program.

“I didn’t think I would need this when we started but it really was a good process to get my things organized and updated and to learn what needs to be included in a resume. Things have changed a lot,” Berry said. “I am really pleased with Eileen’s ability to work us through this. It took patience, I’m sure. I’m really proud of my fellow workers for getting the most they could out of it.

‘m hoping other displaced workers will take advantage of this opportunity.”

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