ATLANTIC CITY — Mary Difranco is 47 but said at her age she’s not afraid to look for a new job after she lost her post as a server at Revel Casino-Hotel in August.

Difranco, of Egg Harbor Township, lined up Thursday morning inside the Atlantic Cape Community College city campus on Bacharach Boulvevard for an Atlantic City Re-employment Session, part of a re-employment initiative funded through a $29.4 million National Emergency Grant aimed at helping former casino workers find jobs and get new training following casino closings last year.

The sessions started March 9. Over the next three months, instructors anticipate more than 3,000 affected casino workers will come through the sessions at Atlantic Cape. The sessions run through July 1.

“I am hoping to see through this program a lot of different opportunities to restart life. There’s a lot of different things to do out there,” she said.

Difranco is searching for a new career — just not in hospitality and not in a casino, she said. She is working part time at H&R Block but wants to find a permanent position and sought to take advantage of the programs funded by the grant. The grant was awarded in January to the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development by the U.S. Department of Labor.

“I’m staying positive,” Difranco said after she signed in at a table to the session. “When one door closes, five more windows open with opportunities,” she said.

Program participants are provided with a series of small-group and one-on-one services, including a personalized employment plan to get workers on track to land a new job or get training to start a new career.

An estimated 8,000 workers lost their jobs when the casinos closed last year and many remain unemployed.

The latest data from the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development shows the number of unemployment benefit filings as a result of the closings: Revel, 2,003; Showboat,1,284; Trump Plaza, 856; and Atlantic Club, 1,386.

Janice DeCicco Fipp served as the instructor for the session Thursday morning. She teaches sessions Mondays through Thursdays and about 60 students are invited to each session. The sessions started March 9, and students are learning interview skills and resume preparation.

Fipp said she had anticipated a specific mood of the session attendees but was greeted with the opposite.

“These are the most eager, optimistic, skilled and knowledgeable human beings in this room. They’re not giving up,” Fipp said.

Inside the classroom Thursday morning were ex casino employees from all sectors of the industry: hospitality, maintenance and security.

After orientation concludes, Fipp retains contact with the students and critiques resumes, cover letters and gives direction. Since the sessions started this month, she said, students have notified her that they are interviewing for jobs, but she has not yet heard of anyone being hired, yet.

“I tell them to stand up tall, and although you may believe your 33 years as a shift manager in the casinos is a weakness, it’s your strength,” she said.

Paul Smith, of Atlantic City, sat quietly in the session and took notes as Fipp lectured. He said during a break that he is looking to get into the welding field after working in the banquets department at Revel. The father of a 13-year-old and a 1-year-old is looking to try something new and called the training program a huge opportunity.

“I don’t fear anything because everything that happens in life is a challenge,” Smith said.

Workers who may qualify for services under the re-employment grant will receive a notice to attend a session in the coming weeks. Open sessions are available on a first-come, first-served basis and are limited to 30 people per session. All sessions are held at the Atlantic Cape Community College campus in Atlantic City. For more information call 855-748-8125. Emails can also be sent to acreemployment@dol.state.nj.us and should include your name, phone number and home address.

For more information, visit Jobs4Jersey.com/ACreemployment.

Contact Donna Weaver:

609-513-6686

@DonnaKWeaver on Twitter

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