Assistance offered for laid off employees

Published 8:20 pm Monday, March 4, 2013

For the third time in her career, Mary Pinkston is witnessing her employer shut down, and the Weir SPM human-resources manager said there is nothing fun about it.
“I’m ready to get out of the shut-down business,” Pinkston told the Beaufort County Workforce Partnership. “I joke, but it’s really the truth. HR works harder to shut a business down than to open one up.”
Since word of the close of the Old Bath Road business, Pinkston has done anything she could to help its 60 employees find new jobs.
The list includes helping them write resumes, distribution of a portfolio of employee resumes to local businesses and inviting a rapid-response team to meet with employees.
The team included representatives from Beaufort County Community College, JobLink, Vocational Rehabilitation Services and the Mid-East Commission.
“Every employee had at least an hour with the group,” she said. “We’re lucky to have agencies that come together like that.”
One tough aspect of placing the employees has been finding comparable salaries, she said. Their average wage was $20.72 an hour.
“Plus very good benefits,” Pinkston added. “They already know they’re probably not going to make what they are now.”
The employment process has changed since many of the Weir employees were last in the market for a job.
“We have folks who have never worked anywhere else, some for 40 years,” Pinkston said. “And those with 40 years are not ready to stop working.”
Pat Lurvey, with Literacy Volunteers of Beaufort County, said more and more employers only accept employment inquiries electronically.
“They have to do online applications at Walmart, Lowe’s, even McDonald’s. And a lot of people don’t read too well,” Lurvey said. “I would hate to have to be finding a job these days. It’s just very, very tough.”
Lurvey’s organization has stepped in to get employees up to speed, especially with computer, math and reading skills. All of its services are free and open to any Beaufort County resident.
“We’re just trying to do what we can,” Lurvey said.
Thirteen literacy volunteers recently took a workshop presented by BCCC on Career Readiness Certification.
A bronze, silver, gold or platinum certificate is awarded to test-takers based on scores. An additional test, called “Talent,” measures an employee’s soft skills.
“The test is being used by lots of companies as an employability test. You have to have a silver just to get an application from Potash, and BCCC requires a silver to get into the nursing program,” Lurvey said. “For people who have been working 20 years in a plant, it could be pretty intimidating to going have to take the test.”
She said another challenge for people entering the job market would be the GED test. The test will be changing in 2014, and literacy volunteers have already started tutoring people planning to take the test before the change.
As the closing date draws near, Pinkston, who will also be looking for employment, said she would continue to circulate resumes and help employees.
“If you’ve got jobs (to fill), talk to me,” she said.
Pinkston may be reached at 946-7763. Contact LVBC at 974-1812 Mondays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. if you need help or would like to become a tutor. Leave a message if no one answers the phone.