Dislocated office workers: barriers to retraining and reemployment

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The United States is experiencing continuous technological, economic, and social changes that have resulted in structural unemployment. Between January 1979 and January 1984, 11.5 million workers lost their jobs due to plant closings or relocation, abolition of a position or shift, or slack work. Personal and family economic, psychological, social, and health difficulties arise from sudden unexpected job loss.

This study was designed to examine and contribute knowledge of the barriers to retraining and reemployment for dislocated office workers. A purposive sample of 10 dislocated office workers who were laid off in 1982 and 1985 from their jobs in southeastern Indiana was selected. Qualitative research techniques were utilized to obtain detailed interview information from them. An open-ended response instrument was used for personal interviews. The questions were aimed at identifying the factors most associated with barriers to retraining and reemployment of dislocated office workers.

The interviews were transcribed Verbatim, then coded and categorized. The data were then compared and contrasted to identify emerging themes that described pertinent experiences and problems encountered by dislocated office workers. The findings were described and discussed through use of Verbatim quotations. Based on the findings, recommendations for removing barriers to retraining and reemployment were prepared. Recommendations for action included: (a) dislocated workers being offered personal counseling; (b) employer-sponsored outplacement centers being available to those facing imminent displacement; (c) Vocational-technical institutes and community colleges instituting special programs for dislocated workers and conducting advertising to inform dislocated workers about the availability of such programs; and (d) state employment security personnel who process claims of dislocated workers receiving sensitivity training. Recommendations for further research included: (a) whether a larger sample or a sample from another employment setting would produce similar findings; (b) how the communities are affected by large reductions in force; and (c) the extent and magnitude of the problem of loss of retirement benefits as a result of plant closings and reductions in force.