Former mill workers can get job help at Everett Station Tuesday, Oct. 16
EVERETT - When Kimberly-Clark shut down the mill in April, the company had four people stay on to help their peers find jobs.
The shutdown left 570 people without a job. Almost one-fourth of those workers are still looking for one.
The Workforce Development Council of Snohomish County will be holding an open house for the remaining laid off workers from 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16 in room 214 in Everett Station.
“The open house will feature WorkSource staff, the peer workers, some business services staff (staff who work directly with businesses to find out about job openings to present to customers), and federal Trade Act staff,” Workforce spokeswoman Heather Villars said. WorkSource is a job connection service.
A group of three mentors are still active. Their work is paid for with a federal grant, and they work at offices in Everett Station and Mount Vernon.
Around 77 percent of Kimberly-Clark workers have either found a job or went back to school, peer mentor Dean Zevenbergen said.
Some went to other mills, and many found jobs out of state. Others stayed but are underemployed, earning less than the about $30 an hour Kimberly-Clark paid, Zevenbergen said.
The Federal Trade Act allowed many workers to relocate their entire family to new mills elsewhere. Many of those workers took jobs at mills in the South, peer mentor Jayne DeWitt said.
“A smattering” of workers took mill jobs in other places in the state, DeWitt said. She works from the Mount Vernon office. She’s helping numerous Kimberly-Clark workers in Skagit County who came to K-C after Georgia-Pacific closed its mills in that county more than a decade ago.
Kimberly-Clark’s roots ran deep in Everett. With some workers having generations at the mill, some are hesitant to leave the area.
“They have so much of a family base in this area it’s hard to pick up and move,” Zevenbergen said.
The peer mentors work with employers to put people in jobs. The mentors are trained to help Kimberly-Clark workers translate their skills on a resume for other employers. They’re finding that the work ethic built among Kimberly-Clark’s former workers is making the employers who hire them ask to hire more from the mill.
“It’s what employers are interested in,” DeWitt said. “The ability to show up to work every day is huge. They came with a ‘full toolbox’ (of skills), if you will.”
The mentors comfort the laid off workers as well.
The hardest hit are the career mill workers — people who expected to retire from the mill, Zevenbergen said.
“A lot of them are doing fine, but a lot of them are mentally struggling,” he said.
Others, though, are going to school telling the mentors they’re finally going to do what they always dreamed in life, DeWitt said.
Zevenbergen’s looking forward to seeing what happens with these former workers.
“The rest of the story will be in a year and a half and two years when all those folks come out of school,” he said. “We’ll get to see how they land.”
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