Forum to give Chester County's jobless guidance on finding work

Community leaders in Chester County saw people hurting.

They saw workers who had spent years, sometimes decades, toiling in the county's textile mills only to find themselves suddenly jobless, not knowing where to turn.

To help these and other displaced workers, a group of educational agencies and business have organized a forum to offer guidance to those who are unemployed or who might soon be without a job. Titled "I'm out of work, now what?," the event will be held at the Chester Middle School auditorium Tuesday from 6:30 until 8:30 p.m.

Here's some information about the forum:

Q: Why should I go?

A: The forum focuses on what displaced workers need to do to prepare themselves for finding another career.

For people wanting to know what their educational options are, this is the place to learn where you can go, what kind of training you need and how much that will cost. Local advisers will explain how to protect investments, including a home, vehicle and 401(k) plans. The program also will include resume-building tips.

Q: Who is invited, and is there a cost?

A: The event is free and open to the public. Specifically, organizers hope to reach displaced workers. But anyone can attend.

Q: Who will be speaking?

A: Fifteen representatives from various area agencies and businesses will form a panel to share information about how what unemployed people can do to prepare themselves for finding work. Among the groups participating are the Chester County Workforce Development Center, Founders Federal Credit Union, Fort Lawn Community Center and Chester County Literacy Council. For example, Ron Westbrook, the director of Chester County Adult Education, will talk about the programs his office offers to help displaced workers get the training they need to get back into the workforce.

Q: Will I be able to ask questions?

A: Yes. After the speakers' presentations, there will be a question-and-answer session.

Q: Why is this happening now?

A: The need is critical, leaders say. Chester County is tied for the third-highest unemployment rate in the state. More than 4,000 jobs have left the county since 2002. Westbrook organized the event as The Herald gathered information for a December series about the county's unemployment woes. He said many agencies that help the unemployed are underutilized and, because of budget constraints, don't advertise their offerings enough.