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Retraining displaced workers: adult education at Ohio's Miami Valley Career Technology Center provides a source of hope and opportunity for displaced workers.

After 20 years on the job, people often begin to count the days until they receive the gold watch and move into their sunset years of retirement. With the ever-changing economy, however, that is not always the scenario that occurs. Instead, many will find themselves back in the classroom preparing for a new career and planning a new future.

Depending on the resources available to them, these newly displaced workers may face tough times, or they may find new opportunities. If they are fortunate enough to have a school such as the Miami Valley Career Technology Center (MVCTC) in their community, their chances for success in a new career are greatly increased.

At MVCTC in Clayton, Ohio, Superintendent Dr. John Boggess, Adult Education Director Ben VanWye and the staff, which includes a strong group of counselors, use open communication and community awareness to help many displaced workers return to school to learn a new trade or skill so that they may quickly get back into the workforce.

One of the local closings that resulted from marketplace changes was the Corning facility in Greenville, Ohio. Because so many of its glass products are now being replaced by plastics, the company announced in 2001 that it was closing its Greenville location. Corning employed about 350 workers, some of whom found themselves unemployed after as many as 28 years of service. In some instances, both husband and wife had been employed at Corning, and both lost their jobs.

In response to the closing, the adult education division of Miami Valley Career Technology Center partnered with Darke County Job and Family Services, stepping up to the plate to offer options to the employees at Corning. MVCTC participated in Corning onsite meetings that the company set up for its employees. The school also hosted four sessions at MVCTC for the unemployed Corning workers. The sessions included an explanation of the Trade Adjustment Act that helps the unemployed learn new skills and re-enter the job force. Career-education instructors from various career clusters were present to explain what would be involved in their classes and what opportunities the career pathways held.

"We weren't necessarily recruiting for MVCTC," explains Joel Sink, MVCTC's adult education human resources coordinator. "We wanted them to know that they had options, opportunities and resources from many areas."

"Many who came to us were very depressed and afraid," adds Anne Shearer, MVCTC adult ed counselor. "They never thought they would have to 'begin again,' and going back to school was a frightening prospect for those who hadn't been in a classroom for years. When you are in high school, there isn't a great deal of pressure. However, when you are in adult school and studying for a new job, a new future, you have the pressure of knowing that your success will affect the future of your family, especially if you are a single parent."

Easing the Transition

At MVCTC, school counselors help make the process as simple as possible. Working with students on an individual basis, counselors determine if a student meets government-funding requirements and provide a number of assessments to help guide the student toward the best career choice. One of the instruments used is COPS--Career Occupational Preference System--which contains inventories of career interests, brief abilities assessment and inventories work values. It is a tool that helps people look at their strengths and work from there. The students who choose to enroll full time at MVCTC take the Work Keys Assessment as an entrance assessment.

Sandi Mitchell, an adult career counselor at MVCTC, has years of experience working with women who, for a number of reasons, find themselves reentering the workplace. Many of the out-of-work women develop the self-confidence to enter new fields after Mitchell works with them in determining their interests and talents. Some choose to enter high-paying non-traditional fields after Mitchell offers analogies to help them understand what they'll be doing.

"I often talk to women who have no marketable skills and can't see themselves being able to learn," says Mitchell. "I talk to them about their interests and, for example, if I learn that they like to sew, I assure them that, if they can read a pattern and make a dress, then they can read a blueprint and make machine parts. Of course, they understand that it will require dedicating both time and work to their adult education. As a result, we have had women enter our adult education machine trades program where workers are premium here in the Miami Valley area."

"Of course," Mitchell adds, "many women lean toward business and information technology, but we have helped women train for and work in electrical trades, heating/ventilation/ air conditioning, and aircraft maintenance."

Sometimes the course load in MVCTC adult education is short term to update academic skills. It might be a refresher course to get a license renewed or qualification courses for certification in specific fields. Other times, programs are more long term with a career change as the goal. The course load also could be a tool toward continuing education for a degree.

Student Success Stories

Randy North found himself going back to school at age 59, when he lost his job at Coming after 19 years on the job. North went through a nine-month electrical trades program and is now in his third year as an electrical apprentice with Active Electric in Dayton, Ohio. He is continuing his classes at MVCTC, and in March of 2006, he will have completed his apprenticeship with four years of on-the-job training and more than 144 hours of classroom study.

Although North admits there was some pressure going back to school, he quickly points out that his life experiences have helped him in the classroom, as they do many adult students.

"I think it shocked some of the other students because I was so much older and doing better in class than some of them," North says. "If I want something, I know that I have to work hard to get it, and many of the younger ones haven't figured that out yet."

For Dick Long, 46, the career choice was an easy one. He had experience working with the fire and rescue department, and when he saw six to eight pages of health care jobs listed in the local paper, he decided to enter MVCTC's practical nurse program. He was accepted into the program, and the TAA (Trade Adjustment Assistance) helped him with his tuition.

Sandra Campbell came to the MVCTC after she lost her job at Delphi building compressors. "I was devastated. It was an emotional time for me," says Campbell.

She found her niche in the practical nurse adult program at MVCTC and studied for her tests along with her son, who was studying his schoolwork in his senior year of high school.

When she lost her job at Corning, Nancy Mayo looked at her options that were outlined at MVCFC and chose to enter the medical assisting program. Two years later, she is medical assistant/surgery scheduler for Dayton Head and Neck Surgeons, Inc.

Mayo notes, "I ended up returning to school the same time my son was starting college! It was challenging at times, starting over as an adult student, but it was worth every minute of it ... and most importantly, I love what I'm doing now. Circumstances I couldn't control may have influenced how I got here, but then it was up to me; and I feel lucky to have had the chance to begin a new career!"

Darlene Andes agrees. A widow with grown children and in a dead-end job, she sought help from MVCTC's adult division to see what opportunities were available and what she might be qualified for. Sandi Mitchell counseled her, and Darlene entered the machine trades program, graduated and was subsequently hired by a machine company in Dayton, Ohio.

"I wanted something where I could make better money than the job I currently had," Andes explains. "I was afraid at first, but soon learned that I could--and would--succeed."

Andes now enjoys her retirement from International Fineblanking Corporation in Dayton and adds, "I thought my education ended when I received my high school diploma. But when I was widowed, I realized how the unexpected events in our lives force us to take a different path into the future. MVCTC and career-technical education offered me a new beginning, a new future. And that same opportunity is there for many others when they find themselves faced with uncertainty."

Rosalie Bernard is communications coordinator for Miami Valley Career Technology Center in Clayton, Ohio. For more information, visit www.mvctc.com.
COPYRIGHT 2005 Association for Career and Technical Education
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Author:Bernard, Rosalie
Publication:Techniques
Article Type:Cover Story
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2005
Words:1438
Previous Article:Putting it into context.
Next Article:Adult Workforce Education is reaching out to displaced workers.
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