As Preston County braces for major job losses stemming from layoffs at the Matthews Bronze Plant and the scheduled closing of Whitetail Mine, West Virginia University employment specialists are hitting the road this week to help their neighbors in need and make sure that they know good jobs are available.

WVU and the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center are joining about 10 other employers from Morgantown and surrounding areas for a job fair Friday (Dec. 12) for Matthews International employees. The fair, which begins at 9 a.m. at the Reedsville Fire Hall, includes a presentation by Workforce West Virginia and information on training programs. Representatives from WVU and various companies will be on hand to meet with job seekers.

Were pleased to be helping our sister county,said Trisha Gyurke, director of WVU s Employment Services in the Division of Human Resources.We know theres talent in Preston County, and we hope individual job seekers will consider applying at WVU . Its a wonderful opportunity.

Gyurke added,I think whats important heremore than anythingis the community reaching out. West Virginians help each otherthats what we doThis is from the heart.

The Universitys been on the front lines with what Gyurke calls the rapid-response model. When WVU s Division of Human Resources learns of a layoff, community stewardship kicks in, she said.

Its about us going out into the community and helping people find their way to new employmentand maybe thats with WVU or one of our affiliates,she said.Unfortunately with these tough economic times, we might be doing more of these.

WVU implemented the rapid-response model earlier this year under the leadership of Gyurke and Margaret Phillips, vice president for human resources.

It starts with an HR staff member scanning the newspaper to see if there are any closings or downsizing in a sister community, Gyurke said.

Then we pick up the phone and make contact with a manager or administrator. We talk about how we want to come in and speak with their employees, and every time weve done this theyve been very welcoming.

There are a variety of positions currently available at WVU that require many different types of skills and abilities. These include service, craft, maintenance, clerical, food service, information technology, health care, accounting and management positions.

Its not only about talking to people about our job opportunities, but being good stewards and bringing other employers under one umbrella,Senior Employment Specialist Katrina Graham said.The more people we can connect with employers in the area, the better.

When youre talking about putting food on the table or paying a mortgage, the Mountaineer Temps service may be a stopgap for individuals who are seeking paychecks while theyre searching for permanent positions, she added.

For Graham, reaching out to others during this difficult timeespecially with the holidays coming upis personal.

Its personal to me because Im from Kingwood, and its not just affecting one person in a family,said Graham, whose brother-in-law is one of about 330 employees who will lose jobs when Whitetail closes.Several members of one family might all be working in the plant or the mine. I know this is going to be a hardship for the community.

The recent layoffs have also struck a personal note with Susan Jennings Lantz, assistant director of student employment. She is participating in Fridays job fair along with Graham; Donna Bulger, assistant director of Employment Services; and representatives from Mountaineer Temps and the Health Sciences Center employment office.

The people who worked in the offices and foundry at the Bronze plant are well-trained professionals and highly skilled craftsmen,said Lantz, who is originally from Preston County.It breaks my heart, not only that such a vibrant and productive business will be lost, but that so many wonderful, talented people with whom I grew up will be losing their jobs when the economy is taking such a turn for the worse.

If we are able to help some of the Matthews Bronze and Whitetail Mine employees come here to work, it will bring members of experienced groups with a proven strong work ethic into the WVU community,Lantz said.I want to help the people I grew up withand went to school withhave the opportunity to maybe find a new professional home at West Virginia University. WVU has been good to me, and it can be good for them, too.