In our story on government retraining programs , we asked readers to submit their stories. Here are some of the many replies we received.
I went through a WIA-funded retraining program about three years ago, to build on my existing IT skills. I held a part-time job with the city's IS department, then got fortunate enough to land an extremely well-paying job doing technical support for a software company. I would have found work without the WIA program, but I wouldn't be in the field I'm in now, or making what I am now.
In the fall of 2004 I lost my job of 20 years. The representatives of the state (WV) office of WIA held a seminar at my former place of employment lauding the benefits of retraining. I discussed it with my husband and was able to quickly get into a program. Six months later, I was still wrangling with the local WIA office over funding — I was never told that the program was out of money until the next fiscal year. I decided to take out loans to continue my education. Finally, in the eighth month of an 11-month program, did the local office admit to me that no funds would be made available until the next fiscal year … and I was told that since I'd already arranged for loans that no money would be available for me. Did the retraining help me get other work? … I quickly came to realize that I'd basically spent $9,000 of my own money for no reason. I am working now in one of our local hospitals still not using any of the skills I gained during retraining. The WIA program is very unorganized and depending on what kind of work you have been displaced from (if you are not a coal miner or a steelworker in the state of West Virginia than you don't matter) factors into how you are treated and what kind of help you are able to receive.
Martins Ferry, Ohio
I have been through three job retraining programs, one conducted by the State of California. All of these programs did produce hires. But the successes in these programs have been temporary at best. The first was in Construction Estimating. California did have a boom in construction before 2000. But after Y2K, the boom fizzled. I have not had employment in that field since. The second was in Real Estate Mortgage. I arrived just in time for the refi bust of 2003. The third was a State-run program in Loan Processing. I did land a job in the field after 6 months. But after the subprime debacle, firms are still shutting down and I'm doing no better than per diem work on a contract basis. From what I see, I know of no government retraining or anyone's retraining program that anticipates market growth, except possibly in solar and wind. But even these go to those who have engineering degrees. In short, if a degree program is out of reach for you, heaven help you. Nobody else will.
Lynnea Urania Stuart
Santa Ana, Calif.
I went through a training program at Carthage College to become a paralegal. There were promises made by the staff involved with that program (although on the record I am sure they would deny such claims were ever made) that their program not only provided the skills and job leads necessary to successfully transition into this career track, but that employers actively sought out graduates of this program. This proved false. This "in demand credential" I had earned meant only that I now owned a rather expensive piece of paper. It failed to deliver on the promise of "marketable skills/necessary experience" that potential employers were seeking. And, as a graduate of this program, the Career Center does not like dealing with me anymore, as I tend to be "rude" with them. I admit I do get short with them from time to time, but it is because the cost of this program was expensive (over $4,000) and it has not helped me get into a new, better-paying job. Let's face it, the cost of the program has to be repaid, I'm barely getting by and there remain the other bills (utility, mortgage, etc.). I do not seem to matter much as a "customer" anymore since the check from Sallie Mae cleared. So, my take on this program — it turned out to be both a waste of my time and money.
I was unemployed for much of 2007. Shortly after midyear I made the decision to go back to school on my own and to more effectively utilize State of Georgia work force assistance with networking, resume rewrite, job listings, etc. I dipped into my 401k to pay for going back to both Georgia Tech and Southern Poly Tech for Quality and Safety Engineering coursework. I then interviewed with several companies over an approximate one month timeframe, but no bites. So with the help of State of Georgia Counselors, I refocused on my resume and how it read. They completely rewrote the thing for me, I put it on the carrier sites like Monster, replacing the one I already had up, and within a matter of weeks the phone was ringing and by November I identified the employer I still have approx two years later here in the Dallas Texas Metroplex. The message here is that you must utilize state counseling whether you think you need it or not. They are very skilled and in most cases genuinely interested in helping you get back to work. I don’t know if every state has the commitment to helping the unemployed like Georgia does, but think about it, you paid for those services when you had a job. Good luck to all with that hill to climb.
I have attempted to enroll in the No Worker Left Behind program through Michigan Works since being laid off from a Program Management position back in May of this year. After attending multiple meetings over the summer and submitting all of the required information, I cannot get my Case Manager to return my phone calls or emails. The fall semester has since begun, and I have no idea if I'll even be able to participate in the program at all.
I’m a Realtor that hasn't has any business for 13 months. I entered a program for Phlebotomy that took four months to complete; six weeks were clinical training at a local hospital. I finished in August and have recently been given a PRN position for eight hours a week. I'm trying to keep my head up, hopeful that it will turn into something more.
While living and working for one of the Big 3 automakers in the Detroit area between two of the 1970s layoffs, on my own initiative I entered a two-year X-Ray technology program for which I paid a paltry amount of money for tuition and books. (That is hardly the case nowadays.) And yes, the program structure took me out of the workforce and effectively eliminated my state unemployment checks. In my 10th month, I even got a call from my automotive employer offering me my old job back with increased wages and hospitalization. You can be sure I thought of returning to my previous work, but asked whether or not I could be "guaranteed" I wouldn't be laid off yet again. When no assurance was provided to that, I thanked them for their interest and told them my mind was made up: that I was sticking with my 24-month training program. The happy ending is that since then I became an X-Ray technologist, Nuclear Medicine technologist, and attended further training for MRI and PET/CT imaging. Once again laid off (in 1994), I took the personal initiative working for and receiving both an undergraduate and graduate degree in a totally different field. Having re-entered the workforce, my paycheck comes from those job skills learned back in the 1970 and ‘80s. General Douglas MacArthur once said, "In this world there is no security, there is only opportunity." I have never looked back or second-guessed my initial decision, albeit I have never used either college degrees in a job I've held either!
Bob Franke, Jr.
Nursing shortage — not true! I was teaching in a technical school: computer programming, computer applications, College English, College Math, etc. Market dried up and I was let go. The government was proclaiming a huge nursing shortage as the baby boomers age, so I took their advice and went into debt to the tune of $42,000 to get a BSN at Drexel. Graduated Magna Cum Laude and obtained my RN in N.J. and Pa., but in N.J., Pa. and Del. there are no jobs available if you have less than 1 to 3 years nursing experience! Nursing Schools are churning out grads at an alarming rate with little chance of landing a position anywhere! I have applied to hospitals, rehab centers, nursing homes, and doctor's offices in N.J. and Pa. (hundreds of applications) with depressing results. Only one hospital called me in for 3 interviews and then hired someone with "experience." My fellow classmates are suffering similar situations — not even a call back!
Mount Laurel, N.J.
My employer of 20 years closed our factory and sent our jobs to Mexico. I retrained under the Trade Readjustment Act as an ultrasound tech. I currently work full time at a local hospital, and I make 15,000 dollars a year more than I did at my former job. That being said, many of my former coworkers who retrained still have not found jobs, or did not find jobs in the career in which they retrained.
Yes, I went through it right after 9/11. I was informed by Workforce of NY State that I lacked proper computer skills after working for the airlines for 29 years. I was sent to a government sponsored NYC training facility where I completed the course and was awarded a Certification of Completion. What happened? It was about this time outsourcing of American jobs stated overseas (India) and all the new skills I learned were dumped into the rubbish heap! If there are NO jobs here for those who've trained and have been taught new skills, what's the use? We're back where we started from. All our manufacturing jobs have been eliminated in favor of sweatshops overseas. As for office clerical? We'll I've found out very few businesses in this country utilize their computer resources — 'it's too costly.'
New York, NY
Being a dislocated General Motors production worker, I can attest to a WIA experience. It took me six months from time of being laid off to acceptance into the DeKalb county WIA program even though the GM plant in Doraville Ga. was closed and had a TRA petition. Most of the issues were the paperwork involved in the WIA process. Let me outline the process: 1. Schedule a WIA orientation; 2. Complete GA work ready skills; Tape testing; 3. Interview three educational institutions; 4. Job consulting; 5. Admission to college; 6. Transcripts. All this before WIA would accept you into their program. This is enough paperwork to discourage most human beings and seems like that was the routine. I can't tell you how many of my co-workers did not complete the process … but I did. Enrolled in a computer networking degree program at Atlanta Technical College because of the concern they showed. Now in my third quarter of the six quarter computer program, my only fear is that I have enough financial resources to make it through the program...especially after the six month delay in gaining admission into the WIA program.
Stone Mountain, Ga.
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