June 18, 2009
Former BorgWarner workers heading back to school
Laid-off workers from the company explore options for new careers at TC3 event
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Former BorgWarner employee Dennis Forehand of Cortland speaks with representatives from the New York State Labor Department while attending the Training Provider Fair Wednesday at Tompkins Cortland Community College.
DRYDEN — Former BorgWarner Morse TEC employee Dennis Forehand has decided to go back to school to train for a new career in the health care field.
Federal aid earmarked for former BorgWarner employees will enable the 60-year-old Cortland resident to enroll in classes for free.
Forehand was one of more than 85 former BorgWarner employees who attended the BorgWarner Training Provider Event held Wednesday morning at the BorgWarner Field House in Tompkins Cortland Community College.
People who were laid off last summer and fall visited tables featuring representatives from community colleges and BOCES schools and other training providers.
About 500 former BorgWarner employees are eligible for training funded by the federal Trade and Globalization Adjustment Assistance Act of 2009, a form of the Trade Assistance Act amended as part of the American Recovery and Reinvesment Act, which passed Feb. 17. The act offers help to American workers who can be proven to be harmed by unfair competition with foreign companies.
The Cayuga-Cortland Workforce Investment Board and the Tompkins Workforce Investment Board cosponsored the event.
In September these groups sponsored a career fair for former BorgWarner employees at the Ithaca Ramada Inn.
Judy Davison, director of Cayuga-Cortland Workforce Investment Board, said that when the federal program approved tuition benefits for these employees, the groups wanted to host another large event to ensure that all people eligible are informed.
This event was geared more toward retraining than the previous event, which featured many employers collecting applications from the displaced workers.
The trade act will pay for tuition, books and fees and assist with living expenses for people who were displaced between certain dates who enroll in classes, Davison said. It also allows people who enroll in classes to extend their unemployment insurance benefits for the duration of their enrollment.
Robin Sandwick, director of Cortland Works Career Center, said no other companies in Cortland currently qualify for former employees to receive trade act benefits.
Davison said Teamsters Union Local 317, which represents BorgWarner employees, applied to the U.S. Department of Labor for Trade Act benefits, and their request was approved April 16.
Former employees of New Process Gear in Syracuse are eligible, and Syracuse China has put in a petition for eligibility, Sandwick said.
Forehand, a Cortland resident, already knew on Wednesday that his top choice is to train in Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES’ summer programs to become a certified nursing assistant or a licensed practical nurse, possibly to care for the elderly. But while perusing the materials at the tables he discovered some additional opportunities for health care training.
Later on Wednesday, he took a test at BOCES, which determined that his aptitude in English and math are both above a 12th-grade level — high enough to allow him to enroll in the LPN or CNA classes, he said.
Forehand said that at 60, he is too old to handle jobs he used to do such as carpentry and truck driving, and that he has always enjoyed working with people.
“I like elderly people and I figure I can maybe still do that and get paid to do it,” Forehand said.
Forehand said layoffs are probably the most difficult for people his age, but that he also feels sorry for younger people laid off.
“Actually, I feel sorry for some of the people who are younger and they’ve had good jobs, and who knows if those jobs are going to come back?” he said. “Some of us older guys have a hard work ethic and that’s still in demand.”
Forehand said that once he begins working again, he does not plan to stop until he has to.
“I’ve always thought I’d always work as long as I’m able to and feeling healthy,” Forehand said.
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