A workforce in waiting in Craig
Statistics indicate there are more than 700 local residents looking for work. Here are a few words and stories on some of them, as told to the Saturday Morning Press this week at the Colorado Workforce Center of Craig
Former occupation: An assortment of professions
Unemployed: One-and-a-half years
“I’ve worked on a ranch, I’ve driven a truck, mechanic, operating equipment, worked in a sawmill, stacked lumber.
“It’s tough. Ain’t nobody hiring. I pester people and ask for work.
“I’m going blind. I’ve got a genetic disorder that is like macular degeneration only a little different.
“You ask 20 people a day about work and nobody is hiring.
“For somebody like me, you know, it’s even tougher because if they were looking for somebody, they are not going to hire somebody that’s going blind.”
Former occupation: Hotel industry
Unemployed: Since December
Clarissa Norton is the guardian of her 18-year-old sister.
Although Norton is just a year older than her, she must take care of her. That’s a difficult task considering the 19-year-old Norton got laid off in December 2010 and has been unable to find work since.
“There are doctors’ bills,” she said. “Phone bills, electrical, Atmos. I’m trying to work around it and I have an adopted family, so I’m trying to spend as much time with them.”
Norton relies on food stamps.
“I did it because it is a necessity,” she said. “I don’t ask for help unless I need it. It took my parents looking at me and saying, ‘You need help, go do it.’ So, then I did it.”
Job-hunting is a more than 35-hour-per-week job itself, Norton said. She’s found a few leads, but will take anything that pays, she said.
“A paycheck is a paycheck,” she said. “I’m not going to be picky. It pays my bills.”
She knows other people looking for work and has seen the heartache caused by unemployment.
“It destroys families,” she said. “I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I’ve seen how it has destroyed my family and it’s just difficult because when you sit down and you watch your parents go through it, you never figured that you’d go through that.
“You thought, ‘I’m going to graduate and go to college. I’m not going to have that happen to me. I’m set.’
“Nope. It’s not like that.”
Former occupation: Diesel mechanic and welder
Unemployed: Three months
“Like I said, I’m a 20-year diesel mechanic and I can’t get a job as a mechanic. I had to go back to coal mining to make the ends meet.
“I’m single. That’s a plus. I couldn’t imagine having three or four kids and an old lady. It’d be tough.
“It’s insane. If you do come across (a job), you are not talking three or four people going to get it, you’re talking 200, 300.
“If my landlord wasn’t as cool as he is, I’d be in bad shape.”
Former occupation: N/A
Unemployed: Eight months
Brandon Keen works one day a week at a local Chinese food restaurant.
The 21-year-old is grateful for the work, but he needs more.
“I’d be so happy,” he said of finding a job. “I’m happy with that one day I work. It means a lot to me. I’m unemployed and I wish I could get paid more.”
Being without work led Keen down a road he didn’t want to go, he said.
“It sucked — it made me go to jail,” he said. “So, that’s given me a lot of free time on my hands. Other than that, it’s pretty much what it is.”
He has lived in Craig for about 40 days. He said he spends afternoons filling out job applications. But, when he tells an employer he is sentenced to Correctional Alternative Placement Services, “they look at you kind of different.”
“I get out there every day and do it,” he said. “Yesterday, I had my notebook with me and went to Domino’s, Village Inn … It is a lot easier if you know people that can help you get hired on and not having a criminal history behind you, too.”
Job leads are slow, but Keen said he has faith.
“All I can do is hope for the best,” he said.
Former occupation: Cashier
Unemployed: One year
“It’s really hard.
“There is not much out here. We are in the process of moving actually somewhere out of Craig where there is more of a job opportunity.
“Anything really, cleaning, cashiering, customer service. … We’re really struggling to keep above water.
“I bet half of Craig is looking for jobs right now. A lot of people are moving because there aren’t any jobs. … It’s depressing.”
Former occupation: Construction labor
Unemployed: Two years
“A lot of times I am just out walking around seeing if I can find any help wanted signs, you know?
“I’ve had a few odds and ends jobs here and there, but nothing real solid.
“(I’m wearing out my shoes) and I’m almost through the bottoms of them already.
“If they don’t like the hat you’re wearing, or they don’t like you having a ponytail, or you’re not clean-shaven enough, they can be picky like that because other than you, there are 100-plus people looking for a job, too.
“I have my lazy days. But, I try to spend the better half of the day out hitting the streets.”
Former occupation: Coal miner
Unemployed: Two years
Derik Scott used to work for Twentymile Coal Co.
But, he ran into legal troubles.
The 22-year-old Scott has been looking for a steady job for about two years.
He said he is open to anything, but would prefer working underground again.
“I’d rather work there than anywhere else,” Scott said.
He’s been in Craig for two weeks since getting back from a stint in Arizona, where he wasn’t totally focused on finding a job.
“Now, here I am really pushing it to the limit where I can get in and start working because we are starting out fresh and we really have no one to rely on here,” he said. “I just need a job.”
Life is hard without an income, he said.
“You can’t do what you want to do,” he said. “It is just stress. Stress on you and your family so that’s why I’m trying to get out there.”
He thought he had a job last week, but it fell through.
He knows other people are looking for work, too — his older brother, girlfriend and plenty of friends. He knows it’s a tough task finding a job, but he’s not exactly sure why.
“I think it is kind of hard because the winters and people say the coal mine will come back up as soon as spring comes in and more jobs come in,” he said.
Former occupation: Heavy equipment operator, truck driver
Unemployed: Since September
“The year before, I was on unemployment for about a year-and-a-half.
“I haven’t really been looking too hard. I’ve been staying up with the newspaper right now and then I’ll come in every now and then to check in with the unemployment office here and see what they’ve got on the bulletin board.
“I haven’t fallen behind, so far. I think I’ll pick up something.
“It’s easy, but it ain’t much fun. It’s boring. You look forward for it to snow so you can go out in the driveway and plow.
“You don’t really have enough income to go out and do a lot of pleasurable things — around here it’s going out fishing or to the casinos. It is just out of your budget.
“Just hang in there. It’ll come back around.”
— Written by Brian Smith, with reporting contributions by Ben McCanna, Scott Schlaufman and Joshua Gordon
— Photos by Brian Smith
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Seven miles along the side of Highway 318 as it passes through Sand Wash Basin will shortly be the location for a new fence.