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Industry Insight

In Wisconsin, Retraining Leads to Career Recovery

Ask anybody whose job has been taken away—

By Patrick Henry
Published: May 14, 2009

Ask anybody whose job has been taken away—the emotional passage from rage and disbelief to acceptance and renewed hope is a bitter one. But with the support of those who believe in you, there can be life after a layoff. Former employees of the NewPage paper mill in Kimberly, WI, put their anger on display last month by picketing the New York City offices of Cerberus Capital Management, the private equity firm that bought NewPage from Meadwestvaco in 2005. NewPage shut down operations at the coated-paper plant last September, putting about 600 people out of work. Although NewPage has hired a consultant to market the mill and its three papermaking machines to other buyers, no one knows if production at the Kimberly plant can ever be revived. But, Fox Valley Technical College has its own ideas about helping to revive the careers of those who once worked there. The Appleton, WI, school is retraining former NewPage employees in its package and label printing program, a 44-week course that prepares them for careers in a segment of the industry holding up better in the recession than most others. Classes are small, limited to just 12 people per section. But the post-graduation job placement rate in the region, where numerous printing plants are clustered, is high. Not surprisingly, the program has attracted media attention in a news climate starved for good news about employment. The New York Times took note of the program in a January article about a surge of interest in jobs thought to be “safe.” Last week, Fox 11 (WLUK-TV) of Green Bay, WI, aired a report that included interviews with trainees. WhatTheyThink featured the Fox Valley packaging and label program in its coverage of “Education Alley” at Graph Expo 2008. Gary Kilgas, Dean of graphic arts studies, told us that the program was thriving thanks to hiring demand and the material support of printing companies in the region. Let us know what schools, trade associations, and other training organizations in your region are doing to restore hope to our industry’s jobless.

Patrick Henry, Executive Editor for WhatTheyThink.com is also the director of Liberty or Death Communications, a consultancy specializing in research, education, promotional, and editorial support services for the printing and publishing industries.

Patrick Henry is available for speaking engagements and consulting projects. To get more information contact us here.

Please offer your feedback to Patrick. He can be reached at patrick.henry@whattheythink.com.



By Phillip Crum on May 31, 2009

Hmmm. Sounds like free enterprise in action to me. Cerberus did what it had to do to keep it's operations financially sound. Fox Valley spied an opportunity to do what they do to earn a living, presumably partnering in some way with the local cluster of potential employers to make a good idea work. No mention in the article about what the workers did other than complain like baby birds with their mouths wide-open. I'm sure some of them had saved for this rainy day and a handful of them may have started their own businesses. Hoorah for them! While re-training is the topic/focus of the post I think the real point is the recognition of how a free-market economy works toward the collective good of our society even in a down economy. I would like to see a companion piece about those 600 workers to see how they've each handled this chapter in their lives.


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