ST. PAUL – By all accounts, the U.S. economy is recovering from the “Great Recession” of nine years ago and Minnesota is leading the way in job growth. But not all people are benefitting – and that is where the state’s Dislocated Worker Program steps in.
“We are constantly being notified of layoffs” despite the economic recovery, said Liz McLoone, the program’s liaison with organized labor.
The reasons, she said, are many: Certain industries, like mining, have suffered layoffs and plant closings. Some jobs are being lost due to trade policies. Some industries, even those doing very well, are slow to hire. Job growth in manufacturing remains sluggish.
While some people struggling to find employment are part of well-publicized, large-scale layoffs, many who lose their jobs through no fault of their own are in situations that are less visible.
“It doesn’t have to be a mass layoff for a worker to get enrolled in the Dislocated Worker Program,” she said. “Anyone who is laid off at no fault of their own can apply.”
In the last year, for example, the program has served people in communities across Minnesota, in workplaces as varied as hotels, health clinics, construction companies, meatpacking plants, technology companies, financial institutions, grocery and clothing stores, telemarketing firms and even school districts. All services offered are free to eligible workers.
How it works
Many workers learn about the Dislocated Worker Program when they are part of a large layoff. By law, companies laying off 50 or more workers must notify the state, triggering contact by the program’s Rapid Response Team.
Workers not involved in large layoffs often learn of the program when they apply for unemployment insurance benefits or contact their local WorkForce Center.
In large layoffs, the Rapid Response Team works with the affected workers, their union – if there is one – and the employer to disseminate information and decide a course of action. Generally, a committee of seven to nine employee volunteers helps plan, deliver and evaluate transition services, which may include career counseling and assessment, training or retraining programs and other job search assistance.
Individuals who apply to the program can work one-on-one with a counselor to develop a plan that may include career planning, job search and placement services, counselor-approved training and/or support services.
“The process to obtain services can literally start the next day” after a layoff or notice of a layoff is given, McLoone said.
Meetings are held in English and, with the help of interpreters, in a variety of other languages spoken by the affected workers.
The goal is to find each worker employment that offers comparable pay, comparable benefits and a similar commute to the job that was lost.
In the program year ending June 30, 2017, the program served over 11,000 people, of whom over 83 percent secured employment.
Minnesota has a reputation as a national leader in serving dislocated workers, but not everyone who needs help knows this program is out there, McLoone said. As the Dislocated Worker Labor Liaison, she is doing special outreach to labor unions to make sure they know about the program. In the two years since she has been in this position, Liz has traveled to every corner of the state and attended nearly 70 events and meetings of labor members and leaders to raise awareness.
More information for employees and employers can be found on the Department of Employment and Economic Development website, http://mn.gov/deed/dw or by calling 651-259-7537 or 1-866-213-1422 (toll-free). If you would like for Liz to present to your union, please contact her directly at 651-259-7159 or firstname.lastname@example.org.