SWAT team coming to Columbus this week to assist laid-off Hostess workers

tadams@ledger-enquirer.comFebruary 5, 2013 

It might be called a bootcamp of sorts, and it has been planned to help more than 420 Hostess workers laid off in November at the Columbus Dolly Madison plant gainful employment.

The Georgia Department of Labor today said a new group it has formed, called the Special Workforce Assistance Team, or SWAT, will hold sessions Thursday and Friday at Columbus Technical College.

“This is a group of Department of Labor employees that we have hand-picked, literally, from across the state,” said Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler. “They’re some of our best, and they comprise the nucleus of this team.”

SWAT’s mission will be preparing the Hostess workers for a 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Feb. 14 career and job expo, hosted by Clear Channel Radio, at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center.

The workshops that will take place in several classrooms at Columbus Tech this week include: “Sell Yourself-Branding-Networking-Social Media,” “Resume Writing,” “Interviewing Skills,” “Job Search After 40,” and “How to Succeed at a Job Fair.”

Butler said the sessions are targeted toward the displaced Hostess employees, who were laid off in mid-November after a nationwide shutdown by its parent company, Twinkies and Wonder Bread manufacturer Hostess Brands of Dallas, Texas.

But Butler said no one will be stopped at the door should they seek assistance being offered Thursday and Friday.

“It’s just like when we do a veterans career expo, anybody can show up. However, the focus is going to be on veterans,” he said. “If somebody were to show up and they weren’t a Hostess employee, we’re not going to turn them away.”

SWAT is part of a newly created group that had its first mission of helping out-of-work residents in the hard-hit Dalton area of northwest Georgia. That occurred last October, Butler said, after businesses and elected officials in that area requested that something be done. Dalton, once a carpet manufacturing hub, has battled double-digit unemployment since the Great Recession.

“We have taken what we learned from that event and are continuing to expand the concept and use it in special circumstances like this,” said the commissioner, noting more than 500 people took part in the special sessions in Dalton.

“And then 45 days later we had a very successful job expo, where a lot of those individuals were able to find employment when they hadn’t been able to in some time,” he said.

Butler said SWAT will not replace the labor department’s traditional rapid-response teams, which move quickly after mass layoffs to process workers for unemployment benefits.

“This basically just gives, in this case, the community around Columbus some extra help and extra attention,” he said.

IF YOU GO

The Special Workforce Assistance Team will be in Columbus Thursday and Friday, preparing laid-off workers for an upcoming job fair.

Sessions will take place 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at Columbus Technical College, 928 Manchester Expressway, in Building L600 and rooms 600, 601, 602, 610 and 612.

For more information, contact the Georgia Department of Labor’s Columbus Career Center at 706-649-7423.

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