Saturday, March 8, 2014
By Gillian Graham email@example.com
One in an occasional series about laid-off Hostess workers
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.
WESTBROOK - Bob Prescott has a hard time finding the right word to describe how he feels about being back to work.
Happy. Elated. Grateful.
Prescott was all smiles last week as he unlocked the front door, turned off the alarm and walked through the small store and warehouse of Distributor Corporation of New England in Westbrook. It's been a morning routine since May 1, when he put his six-month stint of unemployment behind him.
"I'm lucky I have a wonderful job," Prescott said. "It's shocking how fast my days go by."
Prescott, 58, was one of 370 employees in Biddeford who lost their jobs when Hostess went out of business last November. Hostess received final bankruptcy court approval Nov. 21 to close 33 bakeries, putting more than 18,000 U.S. employees out of work, including 500 in Maine.
Flowers Foods bought portions of the company, including the Biddeford facility where Wonder Bread, cupcakes and Sno Balls were made, but has made no announcement about what it will do with the bakery facility. Twinkies, which were among the snack cake lines purchased by Apollo Global Management and Metropoulos & Co. for $410 million, will return to store shelves July 15.
Before he was laid off, Prescott, who lives in Portland, had been with the company for 17 years as a route sales driver, stocking bread on store shelves between midnight and 3 a.m. Before that, he worked as a commercial fisherman and at local grocery stores.
He had hoped to retire from Hostess, but when the bakery was shuttered, Prescott was forced to re-evaluate his retirement plans.
He quickly found himself immersed in the unfamiliar world of the unemployed: writing and rewriting his resume, combing the Internet for job listings and sorting through various retraining options.
After a frustrating few weeks of unemployment and trips to the Career Center in Portland to learn about retraining options, Prescott decided his best course of action was to go back to school to earn his Class A commercial truck driving license.
Prescott's driving course at ProDrive in Westbrook was paid for by the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance Program, which assists workers who have lost their jobs as a result of foreign trade or competition. Hostess workers were determined to be eligible for the assistance, which is administered here by the state Department of Labor's Bureau of Employment Services.
In order to participate in the TAA program, people have to be looking for a job and be able to show that no suitable jobs can be found. Once accepted, their retraining -- either in a classroom or on the job -- must be in a field where jobs are likely to be available, said Marty Perlmutter, the Rapid Response coordinator for southern Maine and a Career Center consultant.
The Maine Department of Labor currently has $10 million in TAA funds for qualifying workers, including former Hostess workers who have enrolled in the program. In the past, the program has assisted former employees of WestPoint Home, Formed Fiber Technologies Inc., Bumble Bee Foods and Fraser Papers.
The number of former Hostess workers using the program was not available, although Perlmutter said they are seeking training in computer technology, precision machining, medical assisting and medical office work. Some former Hostess workers also are enrolled in adult education programs to improve their English.
'SO MUCH STUFF TO LEARN'
When it became obvious that finding a new job wasn't going to be easy, Prescott sat down for a talk with his wife, Nora. He was interested in getting his commercial driver's license, but knew driving the biggest tractor trailers on the road would mean he might be away for extended periods of time.
(Continued on page 2)
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.