Eighteen former Sanford employees recently completed special training to show they're ready and better able to start new jobs.
The 10-week, 20-class course was practical training on how to use computer software, but it's also proof of their willingness to learn and change.
Sanford announced on Nov. 11, 2008, that it would be closing its pencil factory in Lewisburg, thereby eliminating nearly 355 jobs.
The former Sanford factory workers' willingness to adapt is a work ethic sought by employers, according to their instructor, Vincent Anderson of the Economic and Workforce Development Department at Columbia State Community College.
"We're trying to help them be more competitive," Anderson said. "If they can show some recent training, they're more attractive. These are people who are willing to learn and change.
"In a lot of jobs, you can't have the specific skills the employer wants because the job skills are too specific," he said.
Employers can show workers how to do their new job, but they may need computer skills, and while that may be something others have, Anderson emphasized that his 18 students' have shown an ability to change by taking the class he led at the Lewisburg campus of CSCC.
Roger Childress, 54, of Belfast, worked as a warehouse materials handler at the Sanford plant.
"I kept up with the flow of production," Childress said. "I needed computer skills to do that, but in my next job up, they want you to know (how to use the computer program Microsoft) Word and Excel and be computer literate so you can correspond with vendors."
Anderson taught the Microsoft system Windows XP operating system and then explained how to use the programs Microsoft Word, Office and then MSOffice Excel. The classes were at the Lewisburg campus on Ellington Parkway.
At Sanford, Childress' supervisor gave him a list of tasks. Childress wants to make the transition upward with computer skills and years of experience with a production line.
His daughter, Amanda Childress, says, "I've got a college degree, but my business is slow." She also works with computers conducting computer-aided drafting for builders. Her work is in Brentwood. "There's nothing here for me."
Anderson said all his students have computers at home. If they hadn't been using them, the students' wives and children had. Those who had been using computers, took the class to sharpen their skills.
"We had a wide spread of students, but that gave us an opportunity for them to work together and pair up. That was one of the bonding features of the class - that they would work together."
"The idea is for them to be more competitive in the job market by having or improving computer skills," Anderson said.
The upcoming Basic Computer Skills Class is full, but individuals interested in training opportunities or upgrading their skills may contact the Tennessee Career Center in Lewisburg at 359-9726.