The job numbers are out for July, and unemployment has dropped from 4.7 percent in February to 4.3 percent in July.
These numbers tell us that virtually anyone can have a job- except for those who live in areas where unemployment is sky high. More about that in another column, but in the meantime, just research the Civilian Conservation Corps. And think about the responsibility our government has to be intervening in areas of the country where coal and manufacturing jobs disappeared decades ago.
The problem with many of the available jobs is that the pay level is not high enough to support a family. Additionally, exposure to toxic elements, heavy lifting, and repetitive motions can well be involved, and all are harmful to the body over time.
So what’s a woman or man to do?
From my perspective, the answer lies in education. Does that confuse you? Have you responded, “Yes, but… .”
Think you’re too old?
Think your reading/writing/math skills are too rusty?
Know you don’t have computer skills?
Not a high school graduate?
I want to hold your hand to lead you through what you might consider a jungle, but you must promise to hold on and spend quality time doing what I mandate. Nothing important is ever done without an expenditure of time and a strong dose of motivation. I’ve taught students over age 50, and all colleges have programs to teach you the skills you’ll need whether it’s basic computer literacy or writing. Don’t let any computer guru buffalo you with jargon. Computers are easy to use, and you need only the basics: emails, Word and Internet searches.
Selecting a major: Don’t listen to all those who say “Do something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” This is nonsense. Just ask those folks with art, theatre, and music degrees who are working minimum wage jobs at the mall and are trying to repay their student loan debt. With their majors, they have kept college profs on the payroll but have not secured their own job future. Broadly speaking, the future is health care occupations and information technology. To assess your interests, skills, and careers that match them, go to TypeFocus at any free web site. The college where I teach, Edison State Community College, offers it at the college website. Go to Career and Job Services, and click on Career Assessments.
Determining the employment outlook for that major: This is easy to do as the U.S. Department of Labor has a website called Occupation Outlook Handbook that is regularly updated and can tell you the outlook for the job/career that interests you. Go to https://www.bls.gov/OOH.
Coordinating college with other responsibilities: Don’t let your current employment, children, and other responsibilities become an excuse for not getting started with a college education. No one said this would be easy. I’m an example in that I had two small boys, a full-time job, no family to provide child care and a 50-mile commute one way to the college where I earned my Ph.D. With online classes and web-flex classes, you can work something out, but you must first be motivated to overcome the obstacles.
Selecting a college: Of course, you want to select the college that offers your major; however, all colleges offer the general education requirements for your major. You can get started close to home and transfer once you have those requirements completed.
Registering and selecting faculty: Most colleges have learned the value of customer care and service, so the process of registering is easy. You can gain a sense of the strengths and limitations of particular faculty by going to www.ratemyprofessors.com.
Paying for college: Financial issues are complicated with state and federal grants and loans, veteran status, scholarships of one kind and another, etc. Make an appointment and talk with a financial aid advisor at the college. That’s what they are there for, but before you keep the appointment, research the college’s web site under “Paying for College” or some such icon. Have your info with you and your questions ready.
That first week of class: Colleges have their own personalities, and there are all kinds of little cliques. Most students will arrive in tennis shoes, shorts, jeans and sweats. Dress in a way that’s comfortable for you and realize you are there to learn, to acquire a knowledge-and-skill base that will make you employable. Sit near the front of the classroom. Visit the college library and the Learning Center early on to get acquainted with their services. Keep the syllabi and handouts the faculty provide organized in a binder. Do your readings and other assignments. Participate actively in classes. Manage your time to keep on top of the assignments. Smile. You’re going to like this.
A final warning: Under no circumstances should you enroll in a college that is not accredited by one of the regional accrediting agencies. These are the two regionals for the newspapers for which I write: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (Tennessee and Kentucky) and Higher Learning Commission (Ohio).
Some for-profit colleges create their own agencies and maintain in their marketing materials that they are accredited by the very agencies they have created. This is fraudulent. Do not fall for this scam.
Vivian Blevins is a consultant for the Training Solutions Group Inc. who teaches courses in writing and literature for major telecom company employees. Reach her at (937) 778-3815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.