Program Sends Laid Off Pryor Workers To School

Tuesday, February 24th 2009, 5:38 pm
By: News On 6

Craig Day, The News On 6

PRYOR, OK -- While laid-off workers face an uncertain future, some who used to work at the Labinal plant in Pryor are moving forward with the help of a program to help workers impacted by foreign competition.

Jennifer Adams, Leslie Kelley, and Brittany Salyers are all enrolled at Rogers State University in Pryor.  All three share another bond.  They were all laid off from the Labinal plant.

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"What am I going to do?  Going out looking for a job," said Jennifer Adams.

"The house payments and the car payments and how am I going to feed my family.  It was very scary," said Leslie Kelley.

"We had actually the Friday before, just closed on our house, so I was thinking Oh my gosh.  What now?" said Brittany Salyers.

All three are taking advantage of a federal program to go to college.  So are a number of other laid off Labinal employees.

"The number of students that we have here at this campus in Pryor, 10% of them are employees that were laid off at Labinal," said RSU-Pryor Campus Director Sherry Alexander.

Under the NAFTA program, federal dollars pay for unemployment benefits and two years of education expenses.

"They pay for tuition, fees, books.  Everything," said Brittany Salyers.

The program helps workers who lose their jobs as a result of trade with or a shift in production to Canada or Mexico.  Labinal, which made electrical systems for the aerospace industry, falls into that category.

"Hopefully within a two year term, the economy can come back around, and by the time they're finished with school, there will be openings.  There will be places for them to go," said RSU-Pryor Campus Director Sherry Alexander.

Jennifer, Leslie and Brittany each say they're thankful for the program and although layoffs have been challenging, getting a degree will pay off.

"I get a degree I can get a better job than what I had before.  Make more money than I did before and we'll be in a better position than when I was working," said Leslie Kelley.