Friday, March 7, 2014
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Bob Prescott drives a forklift at his new job for Distributor Corp. of New England in Westbrook last week.
Photos by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer
Former Hostess employee Bob Prescott works at Distributor Corp. of New England. “I’m lucky I have a wonderful job,” he says.
BY THE NUMBERS
• Hostess laid off 370 employees at its Biddeford facility and 500 in Maine last year.
• The company put more than 18,000 people out of work in the United States when it closed 33 bakeries.
They decided it was a sacrifice they were willing to make, so Prescott enrolled at a driving school in Westbrook. The $4,000, 170-hour program was paid for with TAA funds. He continued to receive his weekly $372 unemployment benefits while he was in school.
It was strange to be back in a classroom after so many years, but Prescott said he enjoyed it and the prospect of being hired directly out of school.
After 80 hours of practice behind the wheel, Prescott failed his first road test. He signed up to take the test again three weeks later, but in the meantime had to continue applying for jobs.
That's when he saw the job at Distributor Corporation of New England, a company with six locations that distributes air conditioning and heating supplies. A day after interviewing with the company and two days after he passed his road test for his commercial driver's license, Prescott was offered the job.
Prescott's job requires him to receive and stock supplies, prepare orders and deliver them to contractors as far away as Massachusetts.
"There's so much stuff to learn, but it's fun learning," Prescott said.
He works from 7 a.m.to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, a schedule he's never worked in his life.
"I don't have as many bags under my eyes," Prescott jokes about his new schedule. "(Getting up early) was a routine I was used to for 17 years. I don't miss those hours. This is working out well."
Prescott is making less now than he did at Hostess and less than he probably would driving tractor-trailers, but says it's worth it to be home at night and weekends.
While he made $22 an hour at Hostess and started his new job at $16.50 an hour, Prescott recently was accepted into a wage subsidy program called Reemployment Trade Adjustment Assistance for people 50 and older who take a job that pays less than they made previously. Under the program, qualifying employees receive half of the wage difference for two years or up to $10,000, Perlmutter said.
Prescott credits the Career Center in Portland with guiding him through the process of getting a new job, from crafting a strong resume to helping him get into the Trade Adjustment Assistance program. Without the guidance, he says he's not sure what he'd be doing right now.
"I'm just so happy to be working again," he said.
'THERE'S NOTHING OUT THERE'
Like Prescott, Sue Tapley of Scarborough thought she would retire from Hostess. Now in her eighth month of unemployment, she's facing a tough decision about what to do next.
Tapley was four years away from retirement when she lost her job as a mixer at the Biddeford bakery. She had worked at Hostess for 14 years, the first time in years she worked only one full-time job.
Tapley, 58, has until July 20 to decide if she will enroll in school to retrain under the Trade Adjustment Assistance program. She's seen a career counselor at the Career Center, but has yet to decide what she wants to do.
"I'm down to crunch time," she said. "I wish I was younger, I really do. If I was younger it would make sense for me to do this (retraining). I think I'm too conscious of the amount it will cost the government for the time I'm going to use it. It's their investment in me, but it would cost them so much money and I wouldn't be putting much back into it."
Tapley still hopes to retire in three years, but if she goes back to school for two years, that leaves only one year to work. She often wonders who would want to hire someone so close to retirement.
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click image to enlarge
Bob Prescott looks up as he aligns his forklift at his new job for Distributor Corp. of New England in Westbrook. Prescott was laid off by Hostess late last year.