Education

Ryan Addresses GM Jobs as EGCC Offers Free Training

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Notification by General Motors that it has 2,700 positions available isn’t a boon for workers expecting layoffs from the potential closing of GM’s Lordstown Complex, nor is it for the Mahoning Valley, said U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan.

On Friday, GM announced openings at plants in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas, as well as skilled trades jobs across multiple locations.

GM is stopping production of the Chevrolet Cruze at the Lordstown plant in March, one of five plants where it is discontinuing operations. GM eliminated Lordstown’s third shift in 2017 and its second shift earlier this year, leaving an hourly workforce of approximately 1,500 on the first shirt.

Those workers would be the plant’s most senior employees, so pulling up stakes is “not a simple thing,” said Ryan, D-13 Ohio, during a press event at Eastern Gateway Community College’s Youngstown Campus. Ryan was there for the school’s announcement of a program to offer free tuition for people affected by the plant closing.

“Their roots are the deepest in these communities,” he said.

Beyond the economic impact of those workers losing their jobs or leaving to find work in other communities, there are further ripple effects, he said. That includes the impact on the housing market as workers sell their homes to take jobs elsewhere, as well as the lost contributions of those workers’ spouses and other family members.

“Now you’re losing teachers in our schools and nurses in our hospitals,” the congressman said. Further, when those workers move, they lose the social support networks they have locally.

“The ripple effect is just brutal.”

Providing new opportunities for workers is the impetus of the new program. The community college is offering free instruction for its degree and certificate programs to workers from GM Lordstown and the businesses forced to downsize because of GM’s decision, as well as their family members.

Eastern Gateway offers “a whole array” of short-term certificates and credentials, said Dr. Jimmie Bruce, president of the community college. He expects demand to be strong for such programs as commercial truck driving, medical assisting, machining, welding and others where workers can get a certificate or skill and get back to work.

“We’re able to offer that programming in a short amount of time,” Bruce said. “Workers come in, learn skills, get retooled and get a job. They’re very employable.”

The program is “one of the best examples” of how community colleges can be nimble in meeting community needs, Ryan said.

“We were having conversations about training and filling jobs that are open, so this has been an ongoing conversation,” he said. “Then the GM thing happened and Dr. Bruce jumped right in and put this together.”

Many GM workers affected by earlier GM layoffs are capitalizing on education opportunities at Eastern Gateway, said Art Daily, vice president of the Youngstown Campus.

Robert Potts, a production worker laid off from GM Lordstown in 2017, is in the two-year paralegal program at Eastern Gateway. An honor student, his retraining is being funded under the federal Trade Adjustment Act, which provides money for tuition as well as textbooks and other school expenses.

At age 46, Potts said it’s “very difficult to engage the job market in Ohio. Without the TAA assistance, I would definitely be struggling.”

Pictured: (From left) State Rep. Michael O’Brien, D-64, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, state Rep. Glenn Holmes, D-63, state Sen. Sean O’Brien, EGCC President Dr. Jimmie Bruce, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13, Ohio, and Gary Cates, senior vice chancellor for the Ohio Department of Higher Education.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.