Trying to retrain for a post-recession world

In the old economy, last year, Tom Koller was a machinist / precision grinder. Then came a layoff. He realized his old job wasn’t coming back. Thumbnail image for minnecon.smallicon.gifNow, he’s one of thousands of jobless Minnesotans trying to retrain for a life beyond the recession.

We’ve written a lot at MinnEcon and MPR about being unemployed and the struggles that follow. We haven’t done a lot on what people are trying to do to change jobs.

Koller, a source in MPR’s Public Insight Network from Eden Prairie, agreed to let us follow him in his quest. He’s in the state’s Dislocated Worker Program, hoping to retrain for a future as a computer network administrator. His unemployment benefits are set to run out in January. He tells us:

I was a PC tech (several years ago). The industry pretty much died. I did some driving and machinist work. The machine I was taught is not used now. I was laid off for lack of work.

I now need a current certification to get a job in a significantly changed computer industry.

The (Dislocated Worker) program is an effort in progress for me. I am turning 50. I am looking for help from them to get schooling to re-qualify myself for computer work.

Given his past experience in computer hardware repair, Koller believes he can meet a current demand for software and hardware support.

But what employers see is that I have not worked in the field for six years and have no recent certifications.

My goal is to become a Sun Certified System Administrator. Entry level salaries are between $40k to $60k. This can be done in as little as one month. Though most options take three months.

We asked him what it’s like at the workforce centers. “The biggest thing I see is uncertainty,” he adds.

It seems to go beyond the insecurity of not working. On the good side, I have seen quite a few ads for home improvement and repair people…In general, jobs that keep the basic things working are doing well.


Are you trying to retrain in this recession or do you work with people trying to retrain? Drop me a line or post below and tell me your experience.

Also, check out the map to read what people in our Network have told us about the job climate around them. Then share your story.

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