The Georgia-Pacific plant in Whiteville is still up and running, but with fewer workers. One woman laid off from the plant, nearly two months ago, is now learning a new trade. This will make the second time Michelle Gaines has been laid off, and the second time she's learning a new trade. Michelle is back in school, hoping to become a licensed practical nurse. Cutbacks at Georgia-Pacific forced managers to end her eleven year career with the plywood and lumber plant in Whiteville. “I'm losing my job, it was kind of a shock, but that's when I realized I had to do something,” said Gaines. So Michelle enrolled at Southeastern Community College. The Workers Investment Act, a federally funded program that assists displaced workers, is paying for her tuition, fees and books. Gaines is taking basic courses, which will eventually get her into the LPN program. The Bureau of Labor statistics say the profession is expected to grow 14% through 2016. That's above average growth compared to other careers. The work is hard, but her teachers said Gaines is a good student. “She's a joy to teach. She's always on time. She's very serious. She comes in with her assignments complete. She's ready to go in the lab to practice our skills,” said SCC nursing instructor, Maxine Blackwell. “When you're in the field of manufacturing, you don't have to do any studying. Now it is changing because everyday that I go home I have to do studying. It's been 12 years. So now I'm like, 'Okay, I have to study now',” Gaines said. Michelle said she loves class and is not looking back at what she's lost. Instead, she is focusing on the chance of finding stability in a new career. “Everyone that has lost their job, go for it. If I can do it, you can do it.” Once Gaines is in the LPN program, her teachers said it will take about a year and a half to complete the coursework. If you have been laid off from your job and you want to go back to school, visit your local Job Link Career Center for details about the Workers Investment Act. It helps with tuition, books and fees.
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