GILLETTE, Wyo. (NewsNation Now) — If you show up to the Gillette, Wyoming Workforce Center any day of the week, you’ll meet people like Joe Clingan.
“Right now I am unemployed. I don’t know for certain when I am going back. I have talked to the boss more than once,” Clingan said.
Clingan is an electrician who was laid off from an oil field and is now looking for work.
“Until they figure out this pandemic and what President Biden’s plans are, we don’t know if it is feasible to go back to work,” Clingan said.
Wyoming is one of the top energy producing states in the nation, but the mining jobs have been disappearing.
Wyoming lost 5,700 mining and logging jobs in just the last year.
“It is really hard and it affects everyone in the county because these are well paying jobs,” Rick Masheim with the Workforce Center said.
Mansheim said good mining jobs pay around $80,000 to $90,000 per year.
There are not other industries in the area that pay nearly that without significant training.
Miners in the area worry President Joe Biden’s new energy and climate change plans will make the unemployment situation even worse.
The only option for many of the miners is to relocate, or come up with an entirely new career.
Ray Burger is one the miners who reinvented himself. He worked at a mine for almost four decades.
“It was 36 years, 10 months, and one week when the doors were closed at Black Jewel,” Burger said.
Burger had experience on the mine rescue team and it led him to enroll in nursing school.
“I’m not the first student from the mining experience who has gone into the nursing program. I’m not the last. I’m not even the oldest,” Burger said.
Burger works the nightshift as a janitor at an elementary school to support his family, and then goes to nursing school at Gillette College during the day.
It might sound like a lot — but he was used to working 12 to 14 hour shifts at the mine.
“It isn’t necessarily that the miners are able to adapt, I think it is humans. We humans can adapt to change,” he said.
The Workforce Center pays Burger’s tuition.
They said other miners have had success going into construction and trucking jobs, but they are hoping to also attract factory and industrial jobs to the area.