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Local courses give job seekers a path to a new profession

Roseann Keegan
Special to the Nevada Appeal

The factory closes. The office is shuttered. The workforce is reduced by 10 percent and you’re on the list.

Losing a job can be devastating, leaving the newly unemployed wondering where to turn next.

For some, the answer lies in retraining for a career. Locally, job seekers have several ways to learn new work skills, even in a matter of weeks.

At Western Nevada College, enrollment is up for “go to work” degrees, meaning,

“people can go in, learn a skill and go to work,” said Anne Hansen, director of information and marketing services.

“I think it’s pretty clear people that are working toward degrees that can help them find a job quickly,” she said.

Hansen points to the school’s 911 class for telecommunicators as a quick way for job seekers to enter a new profession. A spring session is offered.

“That’s one semester, six credits. That’s great if you want to retrain in four months,” Hansen said.

Enrollment has also increased for early childhood education majors, training child care workers and preschool teachers. Criminal justice majors grew by 68 percent, while computer application classes are up by 40 percent.

“As more and more people unfortunately find themselves underemployed or unemployed, more people will find a way to go back to school and enhance their skills or retrain completely,” Hansen said.

Which road to take?

Some of the new students at Western Nevada College have been referred by the JobConnect office in Carson City, part of a statewide network that provides job training, education and employment services.

Individuals who apply for state unemployment benefits are required to register with the JobConnect system, which is under the umbrella of the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.

Michelle Garton, center manager for the Carson City JobConnect, said the office has seen a recent influx of displaced employees from the construction and warehousing industries, and that overall office traffic is up. Recent numbers show that 2,200 of the 30,000 workers in Carson City are out of work.

“With the high unemployment rate that we have currently, we are seeing an increase of customers coming in to register,” Garton said.

All new clients are initially interviewed about their experience and skill set and are given access to the office’s resource center, which offers Internet access, computers and fax machines. The resource center is provided by Job Opportunities in Nevada, or JOIN, a publicly funded non profit.

Generally, clients are offered short-term retraining, with classes to brush up on basic math, English, computer and clerical skills. Those without high school diplomas are encouraged to enroll in GED preparation classes.

Garton said they also receive guidance on what careers match their background and interests.

“We give them information about the resource center, America’s Job Exchange.com, and send them off to think about what they want to do,” Garton said.

From classroom to worksite in four weeks

Don Costa, Carson City branch manager for JOIN, said truck driving is a popular course for people looking to transition quickly to a new career. On any given month, 6 to ten people are enrolled in the four-to-five week program.

“If you’re diligent and pay attention, there is no reason why you can’t go to work the day after you get out of school,” Costa said, adding that the demand is for long haul drivers, not local drivers.

Although some industries are cutting back, Costa said there is growth in truck driving, as well as welding and medical careers like nursing.

“There are a lot of dislocated workers,” Costa said. “Some come in and they know where they want to go, some of them don’t know where they want to go.”

To that end, JOIN works with job seekers to find a new career path that will be a good match.

“We have a responsibility to the taxpayers to make sure (the funds) are put to good use,” Costa said.

More information:

Carson City JOIN and JobConnect

Nevadajobconnect.com, http://www.join.org

1929 N. Carson Street

Carson City

684-0400

Western Nevada College

http://www.wnc.edu

2201 West College Parkway

Carson City

445-3000