ST. CLOUD -- With the final day of operations a month away, Electrolux employees are preparing for their next jobs.

On Monday, 37 employees of the St. Cloud freezer manufacturing plant graduated from a year-long industrial manufacturing skills program run by Career Solutions, a St. Cloud-based employment and training agency.

Tammy Biery, Executive Director of Career Solutions, says the class built on many of the  skills employees have honed while working at Electrolux. They have been enrolled in the class while working full-time at the plant.

"They basically completed a year's worth of college," Biery says. "We had (classes) planned for one day a week through the layoff, which was supposed to be the end of December."

Biery says that class schedule changed in May when the company announced Nov. 1 would be the new last day of work for 90 percent of the plant's employees.

"When (Electrolux) bumped that day up, we had to condense our class schedule. So, for the past three months, they've been going to school two days a week."

Biery says St. Cloud Technical and Community College is looped into the retraining efforts.

"They've been showing students how the classes they took cross-walk into the welding program, or construction, or mechatronics," Biery says.

Biery says, while employees might have the right technical skills for other manufacturing companies, they're still facing barriers to being hired. Over 100 employees were found to be without GEDs or high school diplomas. Others do not speak English as a first language.

And, a Minnesota Department of Economic Employment and Development survey, conducted at Electrolux last year, showed around 70 percent of workers lacked basic computer and internet skills.

"I think (workers) are finding out quickly, in order to get a job, they need those computer skills," Biery says. "Even applying for a job, or building a resume – it's necessary. They don't use computers on the job much. We had to help them get email addresses."

Electrolux hosted a pair of job fairs with local companies in September, and Biery says some employees left the fair with job interviews scheduled. She adds, Career Solutions plans to stay involved with employees as needed as they transition into new jobs.

"If the employer hires them, throughout a training period, we can pay 50 percent of their wages," Biery says. "If they need skills training, we can help them with that additional time and effort. Either we can send them off and get them the training they need, or they can do some on-the-job training."

Currently, Electrolux is the St. Cloud's eighth-largest employer with roughly 760 first and second shift employees. Over half have been with the company for over 10 years.

More From AM 1240 WJON