Job Fair, Future Career Center Offers First Steps For Affected Briggs-Stratton Employees
Some of the 600 employees affected by the future closure of the Briggs and Stratton engine manufacturing plant in Murray came to their first job fair Tuesday to find new employment. Briggs and Stratton announced in August the company was closing their plant by fall of 2020.
West Kentucky Workforce Board officials said companies were specifically invited to the job fair, held inside a Murray hotel, to match the skills of displaced employees with the companies' needs. Representatives from companies including Bodine Aluminum in Tennessee, Hydro-Gear in Princeton, Kentucky, Hutson Inc., and others were present to recruit employees.
“It is what it is...I try not to look at the negative of things, so I try to look positive. So this is going to be a great new adventure for me, and I’m going to make a lot more money. That’s the only way I’m going to look at it,” said 58-year-old Keneth Jckson of Murray. “I’m just going to pray about it and whatever happens, happens.”
Jckson said he’s worked at Briggs and Stratton for 11 years as an engine inspector, with his last day of work on Friday. He said he’s trying to keep his options open, including going back to school.
West Kentucky Workforce Board Executive Director Sheila Clark said the board expects a first wave of layoffs affecting more than 100 employees to happen at the end of this week. She said the board is planning to provide information packets on resources to these employees during the layoffs and set up appointments to take any questions from them.
“It’s going to force you to think about ‘is there an alternate lane that I wanna get in and a pathway for my future?’ And this gives you a little while to examine that before you jump on that next pathway to the next job,” Clark said. “They’ll set up an appointment where they can get more details [on resources]. Because it’s overwhelming. It’s like drinking from a fire hose. There’s so many pieces of information that it takes a while to sort through it.”
Clark said a temporary career center is also being opened in early November inside Heritage Hall on Murray State University’s campus, to help affected employees with career counseling and apply for new jobs. The center plans to operate for two years, with funding coming in part from a U.S. Department of Labor grant that’s expected to be announced Thursday.
23-year-old Dustin Miller, who worked for four years packaging engines at the plant, was also at the job fair. His two brothers and aunt also work at the plant. While he says the layoffs are unfortunate, he said it also opens new doors.
“[My brother is] looking at going to school again, where that before wasn’t even an option because he had a full-time job,” Miller said. “It’s horrible, but it might give some opportunities for some people, the stuff they really want to do with their lives.”