CLEVELAND — Cuyahoga Community College has offered free job readiness sessions and is organizing an upcoming job fair for current and former employees of North Coast Natural Solutions, the hemp manufacturing company that faces accusations and a federal lawsuit after failing to pay its 183 employees for more than a month.
Tri-C’s offer comes as North Coast’s CEO, Ty Williams, still owes the college tens of thousands of dollars for the training services and accommodations that it provided while employees were preparing to work at the company’s new hemp manufacturing facility, which remains in limbo. However, Jenny Febbo, the college’s vice president of integrated communications, said Tri-C remains singularly focused on helping the employees.
“This is what we do here. This is our mission here at the college and we routinely step up and help displaced employees so it’s really nothing new for us,” Febbo said. “This is what we do. We’re used to doing it and we’re happy to be able to do it in this instance.”
Tri-C staff will be reaching out to every North Coast employee, both current and former, and offering them the job readiness sessions, which include instruction on resume building and job interview skills. A job fair connecting affected North Coast employees is also being planned for later this month. A date and time has not been determined yet.
As News 5 first reported, dozens of former and current employees of North Coast Natural Solutions claim that they have yet to be paid for several weeks’ worth of training ahead of the business' opening in June. Since early April, former and current employees said Williams offered a litany of excuses, including issues with IRS-related paperwork, bank accounts and the inability to secure the services of a human relations management company.
According to a federal lawsuit filed by two employees of the company, including its former vice president of human relations, one of the excuses Williams offered to employees was that the bank couldn’t print checks because it was out of paper.
Williams has tried to reassure the employees that have stuck around through the fiasco that they will be paid at the end of this week.
Febbo said she personally sympathizes for the affected employees.
“These are people that have found themselves in a difficult position through no fault of their own,” Febbo said. “We want to step up and help them find new employment and give them the skills to be successful when there is an opening they can interview for.”
When Williams and North Coast hired more than 100 people following several job fairs earlier this year, he signed a contract with Tri-C, which would help facilitate employee training on things like industrial safety, shop math and shop measurement. To date, Williams has not offered payment to Tri-C for those services, although he is not yet ‘past due,’ a college spokesman said.
Many of the employees that have gone weeks without a paycheck have told News 5 that they are behind on their rent, car payments and utility bills. Some even face eviction or having their cars re-possessed. Despite how grim things may be right now, Febbo said those employee's job prospects are good.
“There are quite a few openings in Northeast Ohio right now so we are very hopeful that we will be able to help these people find a good match,” Febbo said.
Despite not responding to numerous phone calls from News 5 reporters and visits to his home, Williams has continued to text his employees. Some of the text messages that Williams has sent and later obtained by News 5 show misleading or untrue statements. At one point, Williams appeared to try to dissuade employees from taking advantage of Tri-C’s resources.
Febbo said the employees are more than welcome to take part in Tri-C’s offerings.
“I would say to them we hope you will take us up on this offer to help you because if you come in and take advantage of the job search readiness sessions that we are offering, you will be in a much better position to be able to secure new employment,” Febbo said. “I would also strongly encourage them to come to the job fair later this month. That’s where they will have the opportunity to meet with employers who have open positions.”
Anyone seeking more information can call Tri-C's Job Links service at 216-987-4391.