By Shari Phiel
While the recent announcement of the pending closure of Summit Crest and Genesis Homes may be yet another in a long list of Colorado businesses closing down or reducing workforce numbers, it is without a doubt the largest such reduction in Berthoud.
Champion Homes, the modular home builder based in Michigan, originally announced the plant would be closing by the end of July. Melissa English, a business services consultant at the Larimer County Workforce Center, said the company has picked up some additional business that will push the closing out until the end of August or perhaps even September.
English also said workforce center plans to hold workshops for employees being laid off will be pushed back closer to the closing date. English explained the workshops are part of the center’s “rapid response” team’s services. Rapid response teams are cooperative efforts between the workforce center, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment and the Unemployment Insurance Program to help companies facing closings, downsizing or restructuring.
But the Summit Crest and Genesis Homes employees are by no means the only workers in Larimer County affected by the downward economic trend. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in the county rose from around 4 percent during much of 2008 to 6.4 percent in May of this year, with more than 11,000 people out of work.
To keep up with the increased numbers, English said the workforce center has been working to increase the number of workshops being made available. The workshops cover a variety of subjects including career planning, federal job applications, computer skills, using social media sites for job searches, resume writing and creating cover letters.
The center also offers a video interviewing lab that lets jobs seekers practice being interview and then can review the taped results. English notes this is particular useful for finding what a person’s strengths and weaknesses are and to work on improving their interview techniques. The good news is all of the services offered by the center to job seekers are provided free of charge.
Along with providing services directly to individual job seekers, the center also works with individual businesses, veterans and younger workers looking for summer employment or just entering the employment market. Business services include employer roundtables, layoff assistance, labor market information, networking opportunities and more.
The workforce center isn’t the only agency to keep up with the growing number of unemployed and displaced workers. The CDLE is providing expanded unemployment insurance benefits to the nearly 200,000 unemployed individuals in Colorado.
In addition to the standard benefit amount offered to qualified individuals, which is based on a calculated dollar amount payable over a 12-month period, Colorado workers are now eligible to receive an additional 13 weeks of benefit payments. Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits are paid to states with a “total three-month average unemployment rate greater than 6 percent,” says the CDLE Web site. Colorado became eligible in April based on the unemployment rates for December, January and February.
On June 2, Gov. Bill Ritter signed a bill that once again increased the number of weeks on unemployment to displaced Colorado workers. Senate Bill 247 allows for an additional 13 weeks of benefits if the unemployment average over three months reaches 6.5 percent. If the average unemployment rate reaches 8 percent, claimants could receive up to 20 weeks of benefits.
For more information about services offered by the Larimer County Workforce Center, visit their Web site at www.LarimerWorkforce.org or visit one of their two locations in either Loveland or Fort Collins. The Fort Collins office can be reached by phone at (970) 498-6600, and the Loveland office number is (970) 667-4261.
Information on unemployment insurance benefits can be found on the CDLE Web site at www.COWorkforce.com.