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Beckley center aims to help laid-off miners

Register-Herald photo by Chris Jackson Brett Dillon with the UMWA speaks about ways to transition coal miners into other careers and retraining current miners at the UMWA District 17 office in Beckley.
Register-Herald photo by Chris Jackson
Brett Dillon with the UMWA speaks about ways to transition coal miners into other careers and retraining current miners at the UMWA District 17 office in Beckley.

BECKLEY, W.Va. — Brett Dillon knows first-hand the gut-wrenching feeling of being laid off from the coal mines.

He used to travel deep underground to extract the country’s main energy source. But after 22 years, he was let go.

“Your first hope is you’re going to be called back or you will get another mining job. And then reality hits — you’re most likely not going to get your job back,” he said.

Dillon, now director of the United Mine Workers of America Career Center Inc. in Beckley, said he tells displaced miners that there is life after mining coal. They just might have to be retrained in another field, he said.

Former miners from their early 20s to 60s walk through the South Fayette Street career center, and many are scared and worried about their family’s future. After meeting with retraining and employment counselors, many of them walk out a bit more assured, he said.

“What miners fail to realize is they have more transferable skills than they know,” Dillon said.

Employees at the career center also explain the retraining options displaced miners can use to gain new skills. Until June 30 of next year, displaced coal miners, anyone laid off because of the industry’s slump, miner’s spouses and children in college are eligible for a $5,000 grant to receive training in a high-demand field. In addition to the grant, they are eligible to receive $20 per day up to $100 a week to cover expenses like day care, gas and food…

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