Program helps former mill worker make a fresh start
Shaina Gonzales went to work for Port Angeles paper manufacturer Nippon in 2013. She liked her job in the labor pool, learning the ins and outs of all sorts of skilled work. Operating equipment was her favorite assignment. Two years later she was laid off during a work shortage and investigated enrolling in PC’s medical assisting program. At that time she had been out of school for 20 years and was going through some life changes, and found the prospect of school a little intimidating. So when the company offered her the job back she chose to stick with what she knew. Then in 2017, along with the rest of the company’s employees, she was laid off permanently with no promise of rehire.
Whenever there is a large company closure in Clallam or Jefferson County, a “rapid response” is conducted by Employment Security, WorkSource, labor and Trade Act representatives and Worker Retraining (WR) personnel from Peninsula College. Displaced mill workers met in the College’s Little Theater to learn about their reemployment and educational options, with a follow up event in the Pirate Union Building a few weeks later that was focused just on school. About 30 former Nippon employees decided to participate in PC’s Worker Retraining Program.
After meeting with PC’s WR representative, Brian Kneidl, Shaina decided the time was right to enroll in the medical assisting program. The fear associated with not having an income had kept her from enrolling at PC in the past. She had three sons to care for, and left the support of her family behind when they moved to Port Angeles four years ago.
“It was really scary putting everything into school because there are no guarantees,” she said, “but Brian is always there when I need him.”
Shaina chose medical assisting because she had always been interested in the medical field, and was particularly interested in anthropology in high school. She also enjoys travelling and knows that there are travel opportunities available in the MA field.
Shaina describes getting her degree as a stepping stone that will open more doors for her, and says she may even pursue anthropology as a hobby in the future.
“Starting over is scary and exciting at the same time,” she said. “What keeps me going is my kids seeing me do it. Showing them it can be done.”
For more information about the Medical Assisting Program, visit: