It’s been nearly a year since more than 13 hundred Deere and Company workers in Waterloo and Ankeny got the news they were being laid off because of a decline in farm equipment sales. 60 have been called back but many others are still searching for employment. Tuesday a new Dislocated Worker Transition Center was opened to help get them back on their feet. The center is located on the main campus of Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo and represents a unique collaboration between the college, Deere’s Union Local 838 and Iowa Workforce Development.
IWD Director Beth Townsend says for those without a steady income, it’s important to put tools to help them under one roof, “they can come and get skills assessment, they can get job leads they can take care of their unemployment. It’s one place they can come to transition to their new life whatever that may be.”
Townsend says the center will be funded by a three million dollar U.S Department of Labor grant. She says with that kind of money involved, they’ll be watching to see that their money is well spent.
Transition centers like the one at Hawkeye have a remarkably good success rate in Iowa. One that was established in Webster City for Electrolux workers served 700 hundred people with a 90 percent new employment success rate. Another at Sioux City’s John Morrell Meat packing plant served 800 people.
Townsend says although losing a job can be unsettling, the good news is that openings for skilled workers in Iowa are at an all- time high, just ask Steve Dust, President of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance and Chamber. He says “I’m excited about the opportunities that may be available for the people who didn’t ask to be put in this position, but who have some tremendous opportunities right here in the Cedar Valley and for all my colleagues around the state who may want some talented people we need ‘ya here.”
United Auto Workers Local 838 Vice President Mike Oberhauser says he believes the opening of the center comes at a time when many have nearly exhausted their resources. He told the crowd at the opening ceremony that “I look at my fellow co-workers and I see little rays of sunlight just waiting to shine. Now they have that opportunity. This grant will not only benefit hundreds of our co-workers with continuing education, but will also allow the employers to gain the skilled workers this area has been lacking for many years.”
Still three million dollars and a brand new transition center does no good at all if those who need it are too proud to ask for help, Oberhauser says he thinks that may be the case for some. He says “I know exactly what the heartache feels like, go home and try to keep your pride. Keeping your pride is tough when the future does look bleak for ya.”
Oberhauser says idled workers who choose not to use the new center but need help providing food, clothing or supplies for their family should contact the Union Hall in Waterloo