Cooper Tire employees transition at Albany Tech - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Cooper Tire employees transition at Albany Tech

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By Len Kiese - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Albany Technical College expects to see record enrollment this Spring. That's good news for the school. The bad news? Many of the new students are laid off workers from Cooper Tire looking to learn new skills to get back in the work force.

News of the Cooper Tire plant shutting down understandably hit employees hard. "It was depressing. I was used to living a certain quality of life. I didn't think I would make the money to live again," said former Cooper employee Tony Najjar.

Najjar was a tire builder at the plant for five years. When he learned he'd be laid off, he immediately worried about his financial future. "That was the first thing," said Najjar, "how was I going to keep paying my bills?"

Najjar along with dozens of other Cooper employees turned to Albany Tech for answers. "Our message is one of hope. We want to ensure that the former employees of Cooper Tire know that they have a place in town where they can get excellent training for careers," said Albany Tech VP of Student Affairs Pamela Heglar.

Right now, 36 employees are registered for Spring classes at the school. Nearly 100 have applied to attend in the near future. "A lot of people are interested in the recession proof type jobs like health careers, computer sciences and some of the more technical type areas," said Heglar.

"It was very depressing but like the saying goes, you can make something good out of something bad," said former Cooper employee Christopher Jackson.

Jackson is now enrolled in the Law Enforcement Technology program at Albany Tech. "That really uplifted my spirits.  By getting the support from Albany Tech and the unemployment office, you can't go wrong," said Jackson.

Jackson and Najjar will now go from co-workers to classmates. Najjar is studying to be an EMT. "Next year I can be out there riding around, on calls," said Najjar.

By the looks of things, they're not letting a layoff get them down and they're now focusing their attention from the economic blues to the books.

Albany Tech has a 98-percent job placement rate for students who earn diplomas or certificates.

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