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Layoffs Pose Challenges for Flextronics Employees

Former employees of a Franklin County electronics maker are scrambling to find work, but manufacturing jobs are hard to come by, and many have not been in the market for years.

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YOUNGSVILLE, N.C. — For Marguerite Alston, the walk to the local Employment Security Commission office is one that's wearing out its welcome.

It's been a long time since Alston's looked for a job. A month ago, she lost hers at the Flextronics plant in Youngsville – once the largest private employer in Franklin County.

She had been with the electronics manufacturer for seven years and was working to become a team leader. Now, worried about her future, she's a frequent visitor to the ESC.

"If I can't get back into inspection or the electronic part, then I'll have to find something else," Armstrong said.

It's a story that's become familiar to state employment counselors.

More than 200 Flextronics employees have visited the ESC since the Singapore-based conglomerate announced it would shut down the plant by April. The move will put 480 permanent employees out of work.

At least 96 employees were let go in January, and remaining employees and officials familiar with the company expect another round of layoffs on Friday, with 80 to 100 terminations.

The company did not return calls Wednesday.

Longtime employees "don't know what to expect out there" in the marketplace, said Mike Brown, branch manager of the Louisburg office of the Employment Security Commission. "(They don't know) what the employers are looking for."

The county's unemployment rate is 4.4 percent – 0.6 percentage points under the state unemployment rate.

But manufacturing jobs, like the ones at Flextronics, are sparse in Vance County, Henderson ESC Manager Sara Wester said. That means many of the laid-off employees, like Alston, will have to go back to school to learn new skills.

"Trying to find the right job for the right person – that's always the challenge," Wester said.

For now, people like Alston continue to hunt, marketing themselves in the middle of a not-so-friendly job market.


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