The Futures Action Centre that opened here after last year’s closure of the A.O. Smith plant will be closing its doors for good on July 25.
Fergus resident Cal MacDonald worked at the factory for over 27 years and has been working as the coordinator at the centre, a joint effort between A.O. Smith, the United Steel Workers Union and Employment Ontario.
MacDonald said he feels the centre will be able to close later this month on good terms, knowing it has helped many of the 300-plus employees set adrift last summer.
The centre now has approximately 200 clients, of which 47 per cent are currently working and 17% are completing courses and workplace training programs.
In the last 12 months, the centre has run 43 training sessions, including resume writing workshops and tutorials on job search strategies. There are also computer work stations set up at the office and a job board that was constantly updated.
Some have struggled with finding new work – particularly older employees – while others have been pleasantly surprised with a new career path.
Centre Wellington Mayor Joanne Ross-Zuj acknowledged the successes of the action centre.
“However when you talk to the families, you can see that it’s been a very painful year,” she said, later adding, “For some, they’ve been able to find a new niche somewhere, but there are others even after one year who are still out there in school trying to get new qualifications.”
Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott said he too believes the effects of the closure are still being felt throughout Centre Wellington.
On a personal level, MacDonald says his time at the centre helped him learn many new skills, including bookkeeping and statistical analysis.
Though he will once again be out of work come July 25, he is taking it all in stride.
“I’m close (to retirement) so I’m not looking for another factory job,” he said.
“I’m looking for something I can just work away at – something that I really enjoy.”
For those seeking employment services in future, MacDonald encourages them to visit many of the businesses that assisted the Futures Action Centre throughout the year, such as Northern Lights and Second Career.
Noting the pending employment centre closure, Ross-Zuj also highlighted the services offered by Northern Lights and Second Chance, which can offer assistance.
She said the township’s role is now mainly in the area of communication.
“From the township’s position, we are still on top of making certain where everything is at,” the mayor said. “But there is still a lot of pain, that is the emotional part you cannot discount.”
Former A.O. Smith employees and their families are also invited to a family barbecue on July 6 from 2 to 5pm in Marden Park, which is being organized by the centre.
– With files from Mike Robinson and Kris Svela