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Workers Prepare For Plasan Closing

Susan Keese
Adam Crawford worries that his age will work against him in his search for a new job.

Workers facing unemployment in May when Bennington’s Plasan Carbon Composites closes got a crash course Friday in the art of job hunting. More than 50 people showed up at the Bennington Career Center for a day of workshops sponsored by the Vermont Department of Labor.

About 160 workers, two thirds of them Vermonters, will lose their jobs when Plasan Carbon Composites leaves the state. The company makes carbon composite components for high-priced sports cars. It announced in February it was moving to Michigan to be closer to the automotive industry.

Wendy Morse, the regional manager for the Vermont Department of Labor, says her agency responded quickly to the news.

"We’ve been going on site and providing individual services," says Morse. "We’re providing information about all the different services our local resource center will be offering for services to help them transition."

The event at the career center on Friday included workshops on job search planning, interview skills and opportunities for retraining. There was  a class on how to prepare for job fairs. There’s one planned here on May 8.

"With enough research and enough legwork there are jobs out there for everybody. You might have to travel a bit more than you usually do." - Aaron Wilken, Plasan worker

Aaron Wilken, who runs a router at Plasan, came for a workshop on resume writing. Wilken, a 13-year military veteran with strong manufacturing skills, is optimistic about his prospects for the future.

"With enough research and enough legwork there are jobs out there for everybody," Wilken says. "You might have to travel a bit more than you usually do, an hour drive to Rutland, a 45-minute drive to Albany."

Thirty-year-old Adam Rose is also confident he’ll find work elsewhere. And he says he’s pleased with the way Plasan is handling the coming shut down.

"They’re providing benefits, and they’re providing up to $5,000 incentive if we meet all our quotas," Rose says. "I’ve just worked there since January, technically. I was a temp before that. I’m still going to get six weeks of severance."

Michael Harrington is Bennington’s Economic Development Director. He says local industries often hire temporary workers to meet big contracts, and then lay them off when the contract ends. He says that makes it tough for people seeking long-term employment.

Harrington says the town is working to match the needs of local employers with the skills of the 100 or so workers about to lose their jobs.

"But that’s a big number for our community to absorb, Harrington says. "I think we’ll either see them fall into other roles here. We may see some who will start their own businesses. But I also think there will be those that will have a tough time."

Back at the career center, 60-year-old Adam Crawford worries that his age will be a big problem in getting hired. Crawford says Plasan offered to move him to Michigan.

"I really don’t want to," he says. "All my family’s here. I grew up here. I don’t want to go. Hence these little workshops and in May they have that work fair, I plan on attending that."

Crawford worked 22 years at Bennington’s Johnson Controls, which closed in 1993. Since then he’s worked for three other companies, including Plasan. They’ve all shut down. Whatever he does next, he says, it won’t be manufacturing.

Susan Keese was VPR's southern Vermont reporter, based at the VPR studio in Manchester at Burr & Burton Academy. After many years as a print journalist and magazine writer, Susan started producing stories for VPR in 2002. From 2007-2009, she worked as a producer, helping to launch the noontime show Vermont Edition. Susan has won numerous journalism awards, including two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for her reporting on VPR. She wrote a column for the Sunday Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus. Her work has appeared in Vermont Life, the Boston Globe Magazine, The New York Times and other publications, as well as on NPR.
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