5 Resources That’ll Help You Develop New Skills So You Can Get Back to Work
Driving into the blighted neighborhood at the north end of the Historic Ybor City on the Gulf Coast of Florida, there are reminders everywhere that, despite a steadily growing economy, not everyone is better off.
Dozens of dilapidated bungalows and row houses line the cobblestone streets. A long-abandoned salon sits across the street from the library, the only evidence that a strip of crumbling buildings once housed neighborhood businesses.
On this block, the unemployment rate sits above 14%, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data. That’s more than triple the 4% for the rest of Hillsborough County.
With unemployment across the country hovering around its lowest point in more than a decade, the Tech Training & Jobs InfoSession seminar, organized by U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, is designed to tackle a problem plaguing the country’s workforce: structural unemployment.
Basically, some workers lack the skills they need for a shifting economic landscape.
So while there are more than 6 million jobs open right now — and 7.4 million people without a job — many are going unfilled.
Structural Unemployment Affects People of All Ages
Mike Bagley, 52, was laid off from his job as a retail supervisor in a store at Tampa International Airport four months ago, and his unemployment checks have stopped coming. He wants to get into graphic design but right now, he works at Target part-time.
“They give me some hours here and there,” he says. “But it’s not going to last me through September.”
It’s no wonder. Since January 2012, the beleaguered department store retail sector has shed nearly 300,000 jobs.
Bryant Reynoso managed to escape the collapse of ITT Technical Institute last year with at least an associate’s degree and some programming knowledge, but he still has yet to put together a portfolio of his work with C++ and Java.
The 22-year-old, who took the day off from his job at Chik-fil-A to attend the workforce training seminar, has always wanted to get into the tech industry but has had trouble finding a job with the skills he has.
Now he’s here at the seminar, one of the first to show up.
“I just wanted to see what was out there,” he says.
Thirty years may separate Bagley and Reynoso, but the two men face the same skills gulf that makes finding a new career tough.
Thanks to some local organizations, there’s some hope for them and the others who attended Monday’s seminar.
Facing Structural Unemployment? Check Out These Resources
Even if you don’t live in the Tampa Bay area, you probably have access to five awesome resources for pumping up your job skills.
1. Workforce Training Programs
The offerings run the gambit: web development, database administration, mobile applications development and network security.
The best part? They’re all free. Yes, you read that right.
Tori Henderson, a 22-year-old Southern University student, said she was most interested in phlebotomy training. Phlebotomist jobs are slated to grow 25% through 2024.
Try searching for “workforce training organizations” and you should find a treasure trove of similar resources to start you off.
2. Community Colleges and Technical Schools
The $1.4 trillion in student debt racked up by U.S. students should be enough to make you wary of a traditional university — let alone a private college.
Why not try a technical school?
“We don’t do free education, but about 85% qualify for financial aid and they don’t have a big debt hanging over their head,” said Erwin Technical College Principal Steve Bryant during the seminar. “And most programs are completed in a year. We pride ourselves on saying ‘a career in a year.’”
He ran through a plethora of workforce training programs: solar installers, machinists and electricians. In fact, the school reported 100% employment for the latter graduates last year, he said.
And as we know, you can make six figures as an electrician — and love your job.
Many community colleges offer similar vocational training and certification programs.
3. Non-Profit Coding Bootcamps
Reynoso, the 22-year-old ITT Tech graduate, perked up when Matt Mawhinney took the stage.
“Our mission is to make tech careers possible,” Mawhinney said.
The Tampa-area program starts in October, but it’s also available in Portland, Kansas City, St. Louis and Seattle.
It could be just what you need to get you on the road to a job at Google.
4. Your Local Library
“You don’t have to go to Starbucks or Panera to get free Wi-Fi,” said Megan Danak, the Principal Librarian of the Tampa Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative.
Don’t worry about tempting your diet with a giant Frappe or calorie-dense sandwiches; just head to your local library to work on your coding… or whatever it is you may be doing to increase your employability skills.
Plus, the county’s libraries offer programs to help older people adapt to new technology, including programs such as Adobe Creative Cloud and iMovie. They even have a recording studio for entrepreneurial folks aiming to launch their own business with a commercial.
Seriously, you’d be amazed at the resources available at your local library for our favorite price: free.
5. Your Local Trade Union
In the back of the library, representatives of Plumbers & Pipefitters Local Union 123 set up a collage of images of the work their members perform in the area.
It’s dirty, but it’s in demand, requires little schooling and pays well. Jobs in this trade are slated to grow 11.5% through 2024 and pay more than $51,000.
According to a Penny Hoarder analysis of infrastructure jobs, it’s the No. 4 construction job you can snag.
And Local Union 123 offers a five-year apprenticeship program that delves into several pipefitting trades. Most trade unions of all types offer similar programs that let you skip the student debt and get right to work.
“I have a skill nobody can ever take from me,” said journeyman electrician Danny Elmore in a recent interview. “And for the last 35 or 38 years, I’ve worked every day that I’ve wanted to.”
As the room cleared out, I asked Bagley if the seminar gave him the tools to help him find a new career.
“I don’t really know yet,” he said before ducking out into the pouring rain. “I hope so.”
Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder. He’s currently learning a new programming language because why not?