Retrained, still unemployed

Laid-off workers who go back to school to train for new jobs may end up back on the unemployment line, reports USA Today.  One year after completing federally funded retraining, 67.6 percent of workers are in jobs related to their training, down from 83.2 percent in 2006, the Labor Department reports. That’s because newly trained workers are competing with experienced workers for the same jobs.

Health care is a growing field. Workers see it as “recession proof.”

Matt Moceri of Shelby, Mich., lost his job last July as a manager for a large home builder. So he took a six-week, $1,800 course at Macomb Community College to be a certified nursing assistant, a field Labor says will grow 19% by 2018. . . . After volunteering at a hospital’s cardiac unit, he landed a similar paying job at St. John Macomb-Oakland Hospital. He works the night shift, tending to up to 16 patients, including their food and toileting needs and checking vital signs. . . . His $30,000-a-year pay is far less than his construction wage. But he expects to make $60,000 or more when he gets more training, possibly to be a nurse.

Registered nursing is projected to add 581,000 jobs by 2018. But, at the moment, there’s a glut of nurses. Older nurses are staying on the job or returning to work to support laid-off husbands.

Recent graduate Anita Jamili, 28, of Van Nuys, Calif., who lost her lab-technician job when her employer closed in 2008, has looked for a nursing slot since December. When she entered College of the Canyons’ nursing school, hospitals were offering $5,000 signing bonuses. “It’s extremely frustrating — I went back to school for two years,” she says.

What’s worse, some students who graduated 18 months ago are still searching and will be at a disadvantage vs. recent graduates even when the market rebounds, says Margaret Craig, associate dean of nursing at Napa Valley College.

Green jobs are supposed to be hot, but they’re not — at least, not yet.

When Tyrone Madison lost his sales job at a Las Vegas car dealership in July 2008, he got government funding for a $6,000 truck-driving class. After failing to land a job, he took a solar-energy class last summer. “They said solar was going to be the next big thing,” says Madison, 48.

But he hasn’t found a solar-installation job either after sending dozens of résumés. This year, Madison took a third class in hopes of getting a job auditing homes for energy efficiency.

Ken Stahovec, 47, of Chesterfield, Mich., studied renewable energy at Macomb Community College after losing his auto job.

With few solar and wind-turbine installation jobs available, he snared a post monitoring methane wells at a landfill, which uses the methane from decaying compost to run electric generators. His pay: $17 an hour, half his old salary.

Communication between job centers, community colleges and employers is often poor, says Julian Alssid, head of the Workforce Strategy Center, a consulting firm. Employers may overestimate their needs to create “a large pool of people from which to select,” says Jim Jacobs, president of Macomb Community College.

Also, many colleges emphasize short-term training to get students back to work quickly, while high-skill jobs in demand require lengthier courses, says Tom Bailey of Columbia’s Teachers College.

A Labor study found “small or nonexistent” benefits in earnings and employment four years down the road for laid-off workers who were retrained compared to similar ones who weren’t.  It often takes several years for retrained workers to find the right job.

A different study for Labor and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago found a year of community college credits boosts men’s earnings by 9 percent and women’s by 14 percent.  However, gains were nearly halved for workers over 35.

Should unemployed workers seek retraining?  “It’s much better than sitting at home and watching soaps,” says Kevin Hollenbeck of the Upjohn Institute.


POSTED BY Joanne Jacobs ON June 10, 2010

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