Government and Technology

Former ATA workers receiving free, fast help: Ivy Tech, WorkOne team up to help those displaced

April 21, 2008

Less than a week after ATA Airlines Inc. filed for bankruptcy and shut down April 3, Barbara Greene, a 24-year employee, was feeling good about finding a new job.

The 52-year-old former government affairs worker coordinated the issuance of permits planes needed for landing in or flying over other countries. Her years with the airline included work with international agencies and travel to foreign locales. She credits her positive outlook to the help she's receiving from a WorkOne training center in College Park. The state's 35 WorkOne centers team with Ivy Tech Community College to run the state's Rapid Response Initiative.

A rapid-response plan goes into effect after a company dismisses a large number of workers in a swift and unexpected shutdown or downsizing. Workers, who often are feeling shell shocked with the sudden job loss, receive special-and free-services intended to lessen their frustrations and speed their way to a new job.

While ATA initially reported that its closure displaced 580 workers, that didn't include 100 pilots and flight attendants who live here but were paid out of the airline's Chicago office.

Rapid-response efforts are coordinated between state and local service providers, including WorkOne, a training program funded by the not-for-profit Indianapolis Private Industry Council. IPIC, in turn, receives funding from federal, state and private sources.

WorkOne is offering former ATA workers 12 hours of job-search-related workshops; outplacement help, including the use of phones and copiers; and financial aid beyond unemployment benefits.

The workshops likely would cost a job seeker upward of $1,000 from a private firm, said Al DeBow, director at the College Park WorkOne location, which focuses on helping white-collar workers. Skills training to get certified in areas related to computer technology, human resources or a host of other specialties is free to those who can't afford the $2,500 cost.

"Most can't afford it. They just lost their jobs," DeBow said. WorkOne also will pick up the tab for tests required to become certified in an area; those typically cost $300 to $500.

The College Park office has placed more than 60 percent of clients, with positions paying from $35,000 to $70,000 annually, since opening less than a year ago, DeBow said.

Ivy Tech is providing its certificate programs on an accelerated-and also free-basis. The value of each program is $1,500 to $2,000. Displaced workers can choose from about 100 programs and become certified in as little as two weeks for a program that normally would take eight weeks.

The community college's help goes a long way toward ensuring WorkOne is successful placing workers, DeBow said.

"Ivy Tech brings the ability to put together a program for a group of people all looking for the same kind of job," he said. "Then we can find multiple employers in need of that kind of worker, and there are a lot of matches made like that."

The sooner a displaced worker feels she is making progress and has taken control of her situation, the better the result.

"It's getting people in and out as quickly as we can," said Thomas Darling, executive director of work-force, economic and community development at Ivy Tech. "These workers need to get over the shock of not having a job fast. It's not just finding them some job, but getting them training in the job they want."

Because ATA workers were highly skilled, they'll be able to find other work, said Mike Hicks, director of the Bureau of Business Research at Ball State University.

"These are the type of workers the city is thirsting for," he said. Even so, they could end up with smaller paychecks.

"We always hate to see the average wage drop and I suspect that's a problem," he said.

Greene is calm and focused.

ATA made the announcement on a Thursday that it was shutting down. Greene was in the WorkOne office Monday morning. Each day of that week, Greene received help filing for unemployment, creating a resume, learning the Internet way of job hunting, and understanding the nuances of interviewing.

"I've been treating this like it was a job," Greene said. "I'm up at 5 a.m. and going at it all day. Then home for the mom thing and I start over again the next morning."

She said the training has taught her that her skills apply to more jobs than she'd realized.

"There are lots of things I might do that I never even considered," Greene said. "I might use my volunteer experience somehow or maybe stay in international affairs."
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