WVC assists Alcoa employees

WVC helps Alcoa employees start school and restart their careers

Media Contacts: Libby Siebens, community relations executive director, 509.682.6436 (Mon. – Thurs.), or Anita Janis, dean of workforce education, 509.682.6614

January 26, 2015

After Alcoa announced the closure of its Wenatchee plant, Wenatchee Valley College was part of a Rapid Response Team—a partnership between WVC, SkillSource and WorkSource—that met with employees to discuss their options, which included seeking new employment or enrolling in college to gain new skills. As a result, 40 Alcoa employees are now enrolled in a variety of courses at WVC for winter quarter, and over 60 plan to enroll in the spring. In order to support the influx of new students, the college has added cohorts to two programs, while the state, WVC Foundation and Alcoa Foundation have provided funding that will assist both the students and college.

Twelve Alcoa workers enrolled in the environmental systems and refrigeration technology (ESRT) program. ESRT is traditionally a fall-start program. In order to accommodate the incoming students, WVC added a new winter cohort that includes one fall class and two winter classes. Students will continue with the regular class schedule in the spring, and summer quarter will be modified to include additional classes to help the students catch up with coursework.

Another 12 workers entered the machining program. The machining program already had a full cohort of students, so the college created a late-start cohort that began today and includes afternoon and evening courses.

The remainder have enrolled in the following programs: industrial technology-electronics (5), allied health programs (4), computer technology and systems (2), automotive technology (1) and industrial technology-drafting (1). Three students have also entered transitional studies to improve their English and math skills in preparation for college-level courses.

WVC is able to support displaced workers through Worker Retraining, a state-funded grant program that allows students who have been laid off (and who meet additional qualifications) to receive funds that will pay for their first quarter of college. To support the increased number of Worker Retraining-eligible students and the program modifications, the college requested additional Worker Retraining funding. On Jan. 20, Washington state approved an additional $216,382 in Worker Retraining emergency funds. Of that, $188,000 is direct financial aid, and $28,382 covers enrollment support (such as paying for instructors, materials and equipment).

The WVC Foundation and Alcoa Foundation have also provided funding. The WVC Foundation received a $50,000 grant from the Alcoa Foundation in January that will fund two temporary adjunct faculty to teach the additional machining courses for the new cohort of students during spring and summer quarters. The Alcoa Foundation was also instrumental in the creation of the machining program in 2014.

Alcoa has also applied for Federal Trade Adjustment Assistance funding through the Department of Labor, which is financial assistance that can be used for worker retraining when work has been curtailed because of foreign competition. That request is still pending.

The enrollment process for the displaced workers has been extensive: they were required to complete college admission forms and Worker Retraining applications, take a placement test, complete financial aid and state unemployment paperwork, attend an advising session and create a comprehensive academic plan. The process, said Riva Morgan, WVC Workforce Education Pathways Director, has been a team effort. The students met one-on-one with an adviser, and, if they needed assistance with financial aid and application forms, worked with AmeriCorps volunteers in a mentoring room provided by the WVC Worker Retraining office.

“The majority are coming in saying that they see this as an opportunity of growth for themselves,” Morgan said.