Tennessee job outlook unclear amid recent layoffs, economic trouble

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) – Sea Ray's layoffs may not have been much of a surprise given the drop in boat sales, and our weakening economy, but what can those 310 workers expect next, and how can you cushion yourself in today's job market?

There is help beyond the want ads.

The Tennessee Job Services folks wanted them to leave with hope, and those laid off have found out that there is some help out there, but they have to think beyond the so-called re-bound job to the rest of their careers.

“They just took us all in, read off a piece of paper what was happening. Told everybody to go home.”

Figuratively speaking, Joshua Lester is in the same boat as 157 former co-workers, leaving the Tennessee Career Center in Vonore where, after Sea Ray, Lester says “I'm not quite sure. Looking to move on in to another county, round closer to family.”

Liddy Burchell is a Rapid Response Coordinator with the Career Center, and says, “They're hardly able to understand it yet---that wasn't a good way to say that--but I think they're still in the shock stage.”

Part of it is knowing Knoxville Metro has lost more than 7,000 factory jobs the past seven-and-a-half years. Two hundred of those came this year, before Sea Ray's cuts.

Lester says, “…Done office work, payroll, drafting, designed cabinets for two years”

Garrett Wagley with the Knoxville Area Chamber Partnership says, “Manufacturing is not as much of a focus as it was ten years ago. There's global competition, but there's some in particular types of industries.”

A year and a half ago, Denso auto parts began adding what it said would be 500 workers in Blount County. Barely two months later, robotics helped Ceramaspeed layoff 180 workers. That meant more work being done with less than half the people.

Wagley says, We partly have a work force that’s ready for it, but the chamber’s working really hard on workforce too. In the future, jobs are gonna follow workforce.”

Burchell says, “We do have training services through the workforce investment act that can provide them some technical, vocational training.”

The Career Center's Burchell says those Sea Ray laid off can get that training free while drawing unemployment benefits.

Lester says, “I may try to work on some skills and stuff, but I need to try to get into work pretty quick. Got three kids I got to take care of.”

Joshua Lester's youngest child has cancer.

Tennessee’s Job Services office tells us some laid-off workers can get health coverage through Tennessee’s CoverKids.

Knoxville’s Sea Ray lay-offs will have their unemployment meeting Tuesday.

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