WNCC takes on job of finding jobs

When pink slips are handed out, families tend to flee Nevada's small, rural towns dominated by one industry rather than start a new career or retrain.

For years, Job Opportunities in Nevada was charged with linking the unemployed with retraining or a new job in Hawthorne and Yerington.

Following a round of retrenchment by JOIN, the task was turned over on Oct. 1 to Western Nevada Community College's education centers in the respective towns.

Northern Nevada Private Industry Council, which has since been renamed Nevada Works, awarded WNCC a one-year $48,000 grant to offer a package of retraining and employment programs, with the hope of luring new business to the region.

The money was used to hire a part-time staffer to work in the Yerington and Hawthorne centers, offering extended hours and "one-stop shopping" in the rural centers, said Bus Scharmann, dean of WNCC's Fallon Campus and Extended Programs.

When someone is laid off, Scharmann envisages they will walk into WNCC's education office and find a plethora of information ranging from vocational schools, WNCC classes, job listings and referrals to private or government organizations.

"We have a high transiency rate, especially in Hawthorne," Scharmann said. "In Yerington people seem to hang in there."

Scharmann said he looked for staff with a solid grounding in the community, good connections and the ability to work with prospective businesses.

Becky Boatwright, a 16-year resident of Yerington, was hired by Scharmann to work in her hometown.

When people trickled into the office, she put up posters around town letting them know that WNCC had taken on JOIN's mantle. Business picked up in the aftermath of the poster campaign. She receives 10 to 15 calls each day and up to seven people a day will come into her office.

"For being part-time, that's good and it picks up every day," she said.

But she still has miners coming in, adamant that they don't want to switch careers or move.

"Sometimes it takes a reality check, if they're not willing to retrain or relocate, because their employment check will run out at some point," she said.

Louis Thompson was hired for the same job at WNCC's Hawthorne Center.

It's a challenge, he said, because Mineral County is a depressed area, unlike areas of Lyon County and Carson City.

Thompson has seen about 20 people since he started with WNCC on Oct. 1 and the majority were assigned to vocational training programs. He directed a few to job openings in the area.

The flip side to new jobs and training is in keeping with WNCC's mission: working with businesses to ensure that employers can hire appropriately trained employees.

One prospect is Delta Star, which manufactures transformers.

If the company settles in Hawthorne it would build a $30-million plant and hire between 100 and 300 employees.

Thompson met with Delta Star officials Friday to discuss their plans and needs.

"We're a community of 4,000. That's a lot for us," he said.

Similarly, Boatwright described Yerington's fragile economy as dominated by two manufacturing companies and local government.

"Unemployment is high and we don't have new businesses moving in," she said.

Boatwright is undaunted. She said she is working closely with Lyon County's Economic Development Authority and as of Jan. 1, she will join the Mason Valley Chamber of Commerce board.

"This will give me a heads up about what's going on," she said.


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