CNCC working with coal industry on understanding workers’ needs as industry winds down
Colorado Northwestern Community College administrators are aiming to bridge gaps between local energy workers — who will likely lose their jobs due to power plant and mine closures — and future career options they may have through the college.
That means, president Lisa Jones said, she and other administrators must learn about not just the hands-on portion of their jobs, but the cultural aspects as well. Jones said her primary concern was looking at how many people would be losing their jobs come 2030, and CNCC is looking at a number between 120-150 people.
“I look at them as 125-150 souls,” Jones said. “The more I looked at the plant, the more depressed I got, because we’re not talking about just finding jobs for people who will lose them. Because that plant will be closing and trying to help them to identify jobs that will provide them with the same quality of living. That’s only a piece of it. We’re talking about how this way of life has been instilled in their skin.”
Jones spoke about the community aspect of working within the plant, which has become a staple to the Moffat County community since its establishment in the 1970s. Whole lives have revolved around connections made there, which has made discussions around the plant’s and coal mines’ closures a sensitive subject since their announcement.
“These are people that have adapted their whole family life based on the way this place operates. They’re losing friends that have become family, and they’re losing the kind of work schedules that they have built their lives (and) their families vacations around, and it was heartbreaking,” she said. “So the best we could do was to sit down with them and talk about how we help in a way that the individuals there can stomach.”
To do this, Jones said she and other administrators are planning to meet with those affected by the closures to find out what has kept them in the energy field — such as skills mapping, questions about the workplace culture and other factors that have kept workers at the plant. Though it’s possible that the plant could transition into a similar energy-manufacturing option, Jones said one goal is to find those transferable skills that workers at the plant do have in order to transition to another field, if need be.
“The goal is to do skills mapping, so that people can see things about themselves that, you know, you might not have finished anything past high school, but you do have computer skills, you have communication skills,” she said. “You’ve got these skills and how might they translate (into another field)? And what else would you like to do? We want to be able to then, after we’ve gathered that information, to work with Tri-State on developing training and development opportunities that work with these employees.”
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