(February 2009 - by Nathan Taylor, The Packet and Times)
The number of people seeking alternative programs at Orillia's Employment Resource Centre has nearly doubled since last year.
The number of client assessments (people looking for specific programs) this year was 99 as of October. That number was 53 a year earlier.
Overall visits to the centre last year, also as of October, we 2,279. At the same time this year, that number was 2,655.
"We are very busy." said Kathy Low, project coordinator with the centre, which is run by Northern Lights.
A handful of recent layoffs and plant closures in the area have led former and soon-to-be former employees to the centre, she said.
"We're not in the situation like places like Kitchener and Waterloo are," Low said. "We're not seeing big numbers like that."
Overall, she said "unemployment has risen only slightly in Orillia."
Since the province introduced its Second Career program in June, the centre has had an average of 30 people a week asking about it, Low said.
The spike in client numbers doesn't solely reflect the state of businesses based in and around Orillia.
Dave Lewis is among the Orillians who commute to Oshawa to work at the General Motors plant. He will be laid off in February, after 29 1/2 years with the company.
The economic downturn and lower demand for its product has led the company to make cuts "way back" said Lewis who works the third shift -- 10:30pm to 6:30am -- which is being eliminated.
"I don't think the government realizes how important this is or how many jobs are affected," he said.
Lewis will be getting his job back after the layoff, "but I'll be bumping into someone else out of a job, which I do not like," he said.
Wednesday's news of a possible $14-billion loan package from the United States for GM, Chrysler and Ford was a positive sign, Lewis said.
"It's imperative to keep those companies afloat. We build a good product there," he said.
He understands the government's demand that automakers come out of the current mess more viable and marketable, but the government has a responsibility too, he said.
"The manufacturing sector has taken a big hit by, I think, free trade," he said.
Letting fewer foreign-made products into the Canadian market would help domestic companies become more sustainable and could also save jobs, Lewis said.