Retraining Program Should be Available for Laid Off Mill Workers - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Retraining Program Should be Available for Laid Off Mill Workers

YAKIMA, Wa - Yakima Resources and the Union representing the mill's employees are working to set up an education re-training program that they can apply for one the mill closes for good in early August.  The program is funded through federal grants.  One former employee at Yakima Resources says the program has given her new hope after getting laid off last year.

Jody Hutchison is finishing up her first year at Perry Technical Institute.  "I'm the only the girl in the class and I'm enjoying every minute of it," she said.

Hutchison is studying to become a machinist, but she used to be a lumber puller at Yakima Resources until she was laid off last year.  That dark say still brings tears to her eyes, "It does, it does..." she says, starting to cry.

Hutchison had worked at the mill for close to five years.  She's says most employees had been there even longer, closer to 30 years.

"Typically, these guys haven't been to a traditional school in decades," says Larry Dagdagan, an instructor at Perry Tech, "And so they're looking for a way to make themselves marketable again and so Perry is a natural fit for them." Dagdagan Perry Tech offers seven different programs and retraining programs are no longer than two years, which is how long the federal grant lasts.

Right now, there are ten former mill employees taking retraining classes at the school.  Hutchison says she won't make what she used to make at the mill when she graduates, but she will be close to it and down the road she could make more. "I don't know where any of us would've been," she says referring to the thought of not having the money to go back to school and learn new skills.

Perry technical institute has an 86-percent job placement rate for its graduates over the last two years.