Friday, March 11, 2016

Former coal miners in Appalachian Ohio struggling to find new careers that pay as well as mining

Central Appalachian counties in Kentucky and West Virginia are the leading examples of the declining coal industry and the desperate search for new careers and economic opportunities. An Appalachian area often forgotten is in eastern Ohio, along the Pennsylvania and West Virginia borders, where there are few other good-paying jobs, Maria Gallucci reports for International Business Times. In the area around Stuebenville, Ohio (Best Places map) "trucking is among the few industries that boast abundant openings and decent wages, at around $20 an hour."

"Murray Energy Corp., the country’s third-biggest coal producer, slashed more than 1,800 jobs—21 percent of its workforce—at its mines in Ohio, West Virginia and Illinois," including more than 300 positions at the Marshall County, Ohio mine, Gallucci writes. "Then came the second layoff, on New Year’s Eve. Murray Energy, based in St. Clairsville, eliminated more than 100 positions at the Marshall County mine and hundreds more in Appalachia."

For people like former miner Danny Hepburn, that meant going from earning more than $1,000 a week to being unemployed to looking for a new career as a semi-truck driver, one of the few thriving careers in the region, now that retailers are ordering and transporting more goods, Gallucci writes. "Locally, Ohio’s growing oil-and-gas sector is helping, too, by hauling in drilling equipment and shipping out wastewater."

"The Obama administration, aiming to boost communities battered by coal’s downturn, recently awarded around $14.5 million in grants to a dozen states as part of its Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce Economic Revitalization program," Gallucci writes. "Ohio received $2 million, one of the biggest slices, to help dislocated coal workers pay for retraining and education programs in high-demand industries, including trucking." The funding is helping cover Hepburn’s driver training fees of roughly $1,500, a sum he says he couldn’t otherwise afford. (International Business Times graphic)

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