The University of Arkansas at Monticello announced its plans to assist dislocated workers at a leadership roundtable Monday held at its technical campus in Crossett.
The university is extending deadlines, offering career services, and making scholarship funds available.
The public meeting was called in response to the June 4 announcement by Georgia-Pacific that an estimated 550 workers would be laid off by the end of 2019 in closures of operations in its Crossett bleached board, pulping and extrusion operations.
Chancellor Karla Hughes said, “We’re here today to do two things. First, I want to offer thoughts and prayers to the effected workforce, which is nearly everyone in this community and surrounding communities. Second, UAM is here to offer hope and opportunity both through education and retraining. Even if you don’t plan to attend one of our three campuses, we want to offer service that can help you get another job.”
Hughes recognized that Georgia-Pacific has been a great partner with UAM, especially the Crossett campus. On the reason for the meeting, she said, “Our core students, alumni and support come from throughout Southeast Arkansas.” The rural counties in that corner of the state “supply the majority of our students, our alumni settle in these areas to work and raise families, and to become community leaders,” Hughes said. “Educational institutions hold small towns together. At UAM, we take that role very seriously.”
Hughes said that the college wants to make education obtainable to anyone interested in being retrained, and anyone who may have a dependent whose plans for college may recently have changed.
Hughes announced UAM’s current plan to address the layoffs. Among other measures, the college is extending the upcoming academic year’s scholarship deadline for all campuses until Aug. 15. (The deadline change is effective for all applicants, regardless of their relationship to GP.) Hughes said that special circumstance designations are available for eligible students who have applied for admission and have been impacted by the GP closures, which means their application for financial aid can be reevaluated.
She said gifts from the executive council have established a new UAM Foundation Fund account. Donations from UAM leadership started the scholarship fund, which will be designated for those who have been directly affected by the GP announcement and their dependents. Eligible students could attend any UAM campus.
She said tax-deductible donations from the public are also being accepted for the scholarship funds. Interested donors may contact Jeff Weaver, Vice Chancellor for Advancement at (870) 460-1328.
Several members of UAM staff on the panel mentioned that they too had been dislocated or otherwise affected by major layoffs. Each echoed the hope for dislocated workers that career changes don’t necessarily mean relocation.
Hughes also mentioned that the Crossett campus has been and will continue to offer space to employers who want to hold interviews. She said UAM’s plan also included offering career services in Crossett on campus and at any local job fairs, workshops, or other events where UAM staff can assist with resumé writing, job searching and counseling.
Linda Rushing, Vice Chancellor of the Crossett campus, announced that the UAM College of Technology- Crossett would make available $20,000 of their discretionary foundation funds specifically for students affected by the announced GP closures who would attend technical programs at that campus.
A number of community leaders representing local businesses, agencies, and economic development entities were in attendance, in addition to GP executives. GP manager of training and development Cathie Hillier outlined GP’s plans for a career fair at the plant on July 23 and 24 which will feature a number of employers seeking to hire current GP talent. She mentioned that most workers have established roots in the Crossett area and would prefer to remain in the area. Hillier mentioned the greater impact on the region beyond the GP employees and anticipated a number of employees in related industries who would be affected by plant closures.
Other agencies in attendance who plan to offer their resources include the Department of Workforce Services, the Dislocated Workers Task Force, the Southeast Economic Development District, Crossett School District, Hamburg School District, the City of Crossett, and the Crossett Economic Development Commission.
Members of the audience spoke about working together and identifying ways to each offer services to those impacted without duplicating efforts or offering resources at times inconvenient for shift workers.
Anyone affected by the recent layoffs who may be interested in obtaining assistance or information about services available at UAM can contact Rushing at (870) 460-2001.