Tulsa leaders announce plan to help laid-off workers

Thursday, August 22nd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Civic leaders Wednesday announced efforts to help Tulsa's thousands of laid-off workers through a hub center where they can learn about job openings and get career counseling and job training.

Mayor Bill LaFortune, the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce and Workforce Tulsa announced the plan after months of layoffs by large corporations. It is funded with a $540,000 dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

``I am aware of the very real economic impact the national recession has had on our citizens and their families,'' LaFortune said. ``We want to help the Tulsans who have been laid off get back on their feet.''

The plan's key component is a 3,300-square-foot center at Tulsa's Promenade Mall where the jobless can go for a variety of services, including resume coaching, job placement and skills assessment.

The grant will also be used to fund an advertising and outreach campaign designed to inform laid-off workers of resources, like technical schools and community colleges, the region already offers, officials said.

The national recession, which began in January 2001 and ended in September of that year, followed by a sluggish recovery have hit Tulsa especially hard.

Layoffs by major corporations have filled local newscasts regularly this year, partly because the city rebuilt itself after the oil bust of the 1980s with now struggling industries like telecommunications, aerospace and energy trading.

Williams Cos. has cut jobs in its energy trading sector this summer. Bankrupt WorldCom cut 400 Tulsa workers in May and June. Tulsa-based Williams Communications, a bankrupt telecom, cut 500 jobs earlier this spring. There have been others.

Without help, many of the laid off workers, who include highly skilled information technology and telecommunications workers, will leave Tulsa for other cities with better job markets, LaFortune said.

``We cannot afford to lose more talented people to other parts of the country,'' the mayor said. ``It is unacceptable. We cannot afford that kind of brain drain in this city.''

Steve Gilbert, chief executive officer of civic group Workforce Tulsa, said more Labor Department money is available if Tulsa's efforts are successful.

The program can get another, similar grant if it helps 90 percent of at least 500 laid-off workers get and retain work that pay at least 80 percent of their previous jobs, he said.

The University of Oklahoma, in a program called ``Boost Tulsa,'' has offered 20 percent tuition reductions to Tulsans who have lost their jobs in the last six months and qualify for academic enrollment.