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LCCC Eliminating 30+ Positions, Reorganizing Programs Due To Budget Shortfall

in News/Education
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne is going through a major reorganization and reduction process, eliminating more than 30 positions and eyeing certain programs for changes.

Thirty-three positions will be eliminated by the end of the year at the community college, 9% of its 383-person workforce, LCCC president Dr. Joe Schaffer told Cowboy State Daily. Seventeen of those positions are currently filled.

This comes just four years after the college eliminated 16 positions, again to deal with budget shortfalls.

“I just can’t predict whether or not there will be a rebound in the coal, oil or gas industries, so we have to approach this situation as if it’s permanent and long-term,” Schaffer said.

Schaffer presented a list of recommendations regarding multiple position cuts and structural reorganizations to programs at the college to LCCC’s board of trustees earlier this week.

The president and a number of other LCCC officials have been working on these recommendations since July, as the college is facing a 10% cut from its state appropriations. LCCC needed to make about $3.5 million in cuts, although officials are expecting the college will see a $4.1 million deficit.

In addition to cutting 33 positions, Schaffer recommended other cuts such as closing the LCCC outreach facility in Pine Bluffs, reducing all departments’ operating budgets, reducing athletics expenditures and eliminating short and long-term disability benefits, among others.

Schaffer said that while the coronavirus had an impact to the college’s budget, the cuts were something that had been coming for a while, due to enrollment being down and the community college receiving fewer appropriated funds from Laramie County and the Wyoming Legislature.

The college receives funding from three sources: Laramie County, the Legislature and tuition. Schaffer said he believes tuition rates have already been increasing far too frequently, causing him to worry that community colleges in Wyoming could soon become unaffordable.

“These are painful processes and while I realize them because of a financial corner we’ve been backed into, I hope it becomes a wakeup call, albeit a painful one,” Schaffer said. “This will allow everyone to think about what kind of future we want and look at proactive changes that can be made.”

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Losing coal could cost Wyoming dearly, take decades to recalibrate labor force

in Energy/Jobs/News
coal industry labor force
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By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s coal market has suffered devastating layoffs and mine closures in recent years, and by all accounts, the industry is shrinking. 

But, what if it dried up overnight? 

“If you were to instantly remove the coal industry, it would immediately cause job losses across the state,” said Robert Godby, the University of Wyoming director for Energy Economics and Public Policies Center and college of business associate professor. “You’re looking at about 5,000 miners directly involved in the coal industry. If you were to lose that all at once, people would feel that.”

It’s not just the miners, either. Godby said a sizable chunk of Wyoming’s labor market is reliant on coal.

“Approximately, there’s about 10,000 jobs directly or indirectly related to the coal industry — mining, electricity generation, railroads, plus all the businesses reliant on those workers’ wages,” he explained. “As coal declines in the state, we’ll have to transition those workers to other industries. And, there will not be enough jobs to absorb those workers.”

The good news, Godby said, is coal won’t disappear that quickly, but it could taper off sooner than Wyoming is prepared for. 

“In 2015, there were almost 5,600 miners in Powder River Basin, now there’s 4,400,” he said. “There are 12 mines up there that produce about 40 percent of the country’s coal. We could be below half of what we were producing in 2009 by the mid-2020s.”

High-paying careers

Data from the Department of Wyoming Workforce Services indicates once these workers lose gainful employment, many leave the state to work in the field elsewhere.

But, across the nation, there are fewer jobs for coal workers and retraining for other careers can mean starting all over.

“Those jobs pay really well,” Godby said. “It’s not only difficult to absorb and replace all those jobs, but you won’t be able to find jobs that pay nearly as well.” 

The average income for a coal industry employee is about $80,000 a year, he said. 

“The people who stay, if those jobs were to disappear, may have to do something else,” Godby said. “Many of those workers may have to accept the fact that unless they go back to school, retrain or re-skill, they won’t find jobs that pay as well.”

When a layoff occurs in any industry, Workforce Services deploys a rapid response team, agency spokesperson Ty Stockton said.

“In Wyoming, we don’t have very many businesses that have 600 employees that could get laid off,” Stockton explained. “We don’t have a real threshold for deploying the team. When Laramie County Community College (LCCC) laid off 17 employees in 2016, they went in for that.”

A team was also sent out in 2016 when about 500 workers were laid off from the North Antelope Rochelle and Black Thunder mines in Campbell County. More recently, Workforce Services deployed a rapid response team to Gillette when Blackjewel, LLC, abruptly laid off about 600 workers at the Belle Ayr and Eagle Butte mines in Campbell County.

“Rapid response is about giving those folks options and information,” Stockton said. “If they don’t have information, there’s nothing they can do.”

Teams can include mental health counselors, Wyoming Department of Family Services staff to help families, Wyoming Department of Health staff to help with health insurance questions and Workforce Services employees to discuss unemployment options and help laid off workers start the search for their next job, he said.

‘Generation of pain’

But all of those are stop-gap measures designed to lessen the blow to recently out-of-work families. 

In the long term, Workforce Services also provides funding for a number of vocational rehabilitation programs. 

“We’re trying to keep (the workers) here and give them some options,” Stockton said. 

The agency has access to about $2 million for retraining coal workers through the Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce Economic Revitalization Grant, aka the POWER Grant.

“The only people eligible for the POWER Grant are the primary industries associated with coal-fired power plants and the coal mines,” Stockton explained. “But we also have the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, and that covers everybody.” 

Additionally, Workforce Services helps fund some apprenticeship programs through grants. 

“Training an apprentice is expensive,” Stockton said. “The apprenticeship program was set up to help offset those costs, so if you need a few apprentices, you can apply for these grants and have their training paid for through the apprenticeship grant.”

About 80 trainees are currently enrolled in apprenticeship programs for electrical, plumbing and heating and cooling careers at LCCC and Northwest College, he said. 

Even with training programs already in place, Godby said recovery from the loss of an industry as big as coal would take years.

“To transition a labor force to work on anything else is going to take about at least about a decade,” he explained. “If we look at other industries like the furniture industry in the Southeast, soft wood lumber in the Pacific Northwest and the industrial decline in the Midwest, those transitions typically take a generation to overcome. That’s a generation — 20 to 30 years — of pain.”

FFA State Convention offers students skills training, competition

in Community/Agriculture
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By Cowboy State Daily

You’d recognize those blue corduroy jackets with their gold medallions embroidered on the back anywhere. And the number of young people sporting the handsome garb is on the rise in Cheyenne this week as the Wyoming FFA Association State Convention comes to town.

At the three day convention junior high and high school students from across Wyoming enjoy opportunities to sharpen their skills in everything from judging livestock and horses to developing business, sales and marketing plans to competing in parliamentary procedure and public speaking.

Students and coaches say the convention builds camaraderie among FFA students and cements marketable skills that students can use in their careers, whether they stay in agriculture or pursue a different field altogether.

“They become very confident because they learn how to speak well in front of people,” Laramie County Community College Equine Studies Instructor and Equestrian Team Coach Lanae Koons McDonald explained. “The students learn how to defend what they see.”

Cowboy State Daily videographer Mike McCrimmon caught up with FFA students – including Evanston High School FFA President Bailey Barker – to learn more about the competition as well as the personal and professional development FFA provides.

Barker told Cowboy State Daily, “We have a cattle ranch back home. You learn even more [at state convention] than you do there. You just continue your learning and your progress and your growth.”

The convention runs through Friday at various sites around Cheyenne.

Gift to LCCC will help business students

in News/Education
business students benefit from gift to LCCC
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By Becky Orr, Cowboy State Daily

CHEYENNE – Longtime Cheyenne resident Lois Mottonen appreciated the value of education and the doors it could open.

Mottonen, who died in December 2017 at the age of 88, left an education legacy that will benefit generations of Laramie County Community College students and help them share in her appreciation.

A $2.4 million gift from Mottonen will provide new scholarships and education programs at the college.

An honors graduate from Rock Springs High School, Mottonen earned a tuition scholarship to the University of Wyoming, where she was the only woman in her class when she majored in accounting. She was also the second Wyoming woman granted a certified public accounting license.

The gift from Mottonen is really about her own story and Wyoming’s story, said LCCC President Joe Schaffer. Mottonen “pulled herself up by her bootstraps” on her own and overcame barriers, he said. “She should be an inspiration to students.”

Lois C. Mottonen Scholarship

LCCC will use $1 million of the gift to create the Lois C. Mottonen Scholarship, said Lisa Trimble, the college’s associate vice president of Institutional Advancement. Scholarships will provide up to $15,000 per student.

“Her gift will continue to open doors, provide opportunities and inspire others to make an impact,” Trimble said.

The endowed fund will provide scholarships for students who are 25 years old or older and who enroll full-time in identified programs that are part of the Rediscover LCCC.

Rediscover LCCC is a pilot scholarship program that will pay for students’ tuition and fees in high-demand degree and certificate programs for up to two years.

Scholarships will be for students who want to return to college to get a degree and who don’t qualify for most traditional scholarships, Trimble said. Endowed funds from the Mottonen scholarships will be available in the fall of 2020.

For business students, programs available in Rediscover LCCC include accounting, financial services concentration, business and finance, business management, business management supply chain concentration and entrepreneurship. These are designed for a student to complete and find a job or transfer to a university to obtain a bachelor’s degree and then enter a career.

Students who apply for the Mottonen scholarships:

  • Must be a Wyoming resident 25 or older, have lived in the state for three or more years and have a demonstrated financial need;
  • Cannot previously have earned an associate, bachelor or graduate degree, and;
  • Must choose one of the identified business programs and attend as a full-time student who maintains a B averages or above.

Center for Essential Student Experiences

Another $982,900 will be used by the college to develop a Center for Essential Student Experiences and establish the Lois C. Mottonen Student Experience Fund. The goal is to make students more marketable when they enter the workforce by giving them access to hands-on learning experiences such as internships or studying abroad, Trimble said. 

“Essential experiences are opportunities designed to provide LCCC students with real-life experiences prior to completing their degrees,” she said.

 This fund will be available in fall 2020.The college also will contribute $200,000 of Mottonen’s gift to Rediscover LCCC to help support students who take part in its business programs.

LCCC will use $300,000 of Mottonen’s gift to help develop and design a new innovative business program for students and provide scholarships to the first participants, Trimble said.

The gift will help jump start the college’s efforts to create an applied baccalaureate or bachelor’s degree of applied sciences in applied management, Schaffer said.

Endowed funds means that Mottonen’s legacy will extend into perpetuity, Schaffer added.  

“LCCC is lucky to have community members such as Ms. Mottonen, whose planned giving support will impact generations to come,” he said.

For more about how to apply for scholarships, call LCCC, 307-778-5222.

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