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Job fair looks to help displaced workers

LITCHFIELD (AP) – Among the roughly 150 workers still trying to find work after losing their jobs when a central Illinois coal mine closed last month, 57-year-old Roger Durbin isn’t ready to give up carving coal out of the earth as his livelihood.

“That’s what I know. That’s what I’m halfway decent at,” he told the Springfield State Journal-Register on Wednesday at a job fair meant to help those displaced by the shuttering of the Crown III mine – Durbin’s workplace for more than three decades – get back on their feet.

The mine between Girard and Farmersville south of Springfield was the last unionized one in Illinois when it closed after its biggest customer, agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland Co., didn’t renew a contract.

Jeremy Jones, vice president of the United Mine Workers of America’s Local 12, said only about one-fifth of the laid-off Crown III miners already have found other work, some with other mines.

Jared Butler hasn’t been as fortunate. At 25, the former Crown III miner from Farmersville attended the job fair that drew some 30 groups, including potential employers, to Lincoln Land Community College’s Litchfield campus.

Butler isn’t being fussy, not ruling out possibly moving from the area to find work.

“I’m not too particular,” Butler said. “I like manual labor and the heavy stuff. I’m just looking around to see what the options are. I’m trying to make the best choice.”

Bob Howard, who directs the Land of Lincoln Community College truck driver training program, said while staffing Wednesday’s job fair he’s already set up two classes exclusively for former Crown III miners hoping to get their commercial driver’s licenses.

“What I find is that truck driving is a natural transition for coal miners,” Howard said. “These guys have worked in adverse conditions, they’ve run heavy equipment, and they know about safety. A lot of them have been around trucks and trailers all of their lives. It’s ideal for them.”

Howard’s first class for seven coal miners starts Feb. 18 and is full. A second class, set for March 26, also is expected to fill up before it starts.


Information from: The State Journal-Register,

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