By Margo Greenman
You’ve just graduated from college and you can’t find a job. You begrudgingly move back in with your parents, and spend your time applying for short-term contract jobs, internships and anything that could potentially help build your resumé or lead to permanent work.
Does this sound familiar? Okay, how about this scenario: You’re 55 years old and you’ve worked in the same industry or job for 30 years. You’ve just been laid off, unemployment is running out, and no one will hire you?
If you haven’t experienced this scenario first hand, chances are there’s someone you know who has. The past several years have not been kind when it comes to finding employment, and even less kind to laid-off, unemployed adults trying to re-enter the workforce. Finding a job is hard enough, but add the emotional hardships associated with being let go, along with the fact that you’re not getting any younger, and trying to find employment can be a near impossible feat.
For laid-off, unemployed individuals struggling to re-enter the workforce, Pierce College’s PierceWorks! program helps its students identify a career path, build confidence, set goals, and work toward a new career in the job market while gaining real-world skills.
Evelyn Brooks has been with the PierceWorks! program since its conception 20 years ago. As program manager she has seen the program evolve, grow and change of the lives of countless individuals. “When the program first started, it was a part-time program. It has since grown to a seven week, full-time program where students receive twenty college credits upon completion.”
In addition to the invaluable resources that students enrolled in the PierceWorks! program receive, PierceWorks! also satisfies the weekly work search requirement needed to receive unemployment benefits from the state. Individuals who receive or have received Washington State Unemployment benefits within the past 24 months are also able to enroll in the program at no cost.
But the program provides students with more than just the information and resources needed to help them explore new careers, it serves as a support group designed to help build self-esteem, confidence and the courage to actually start a new career.
Gregory Kronlund works in the PierceWorks! office, but before working for PierceWorks!, he was a student in the program himself. After experiencing the program first hand, he now works closely with students going through the same process he did several years ago.
Among the activities that the program provides, Kronlund identifies the “Dependable Strengths” component as being truly unique and empowering. “It requires you to take a deep look at yourself and identify the traits and skills that you have, but that you take for granted, and helps you find a way to articulate those strengths and skills,” he says. Kronlund explains that not only does this activity help you identify strengths and find pride in yourself, but that it also allows individuals to then be able to convey those strengths to a potential employer, allowing them to stand out from the crowd.
Brooks says that during the Dependable Strengths portion of the program the instructors “rewind the tape way back to childhood,” and that it can be an emotional experience for some students. But, in doing this exercise, Brooks says one of the biggest benefits is that, “[students] can look at their life and see what they’ve accomplished, and get to a place where they can talk about it. That’s so important as they’re job searching.”
Other features of the program include a personality assessment, a portion on “unlocking your potential,” resumé writing and computer skills training, and more. Kronlund says, “The course has a tendency of sending students in two different directions.” About half of the students who go through PierceWorks! move on to two-year programs, while others walk away with an improved resumé, cover letter, toolbox of valuable skills, and a renewed desire to go back to work.
Kronlund enrolled in the program in 2009 after being let go from a career he had held for 41 years. He said he felt like he only knew how to do one thing and that his self-esteem had “bottomed out.”
“After completing the PierceWorks! program, I came away with the sense that if there’s something I want to do, I can do it,” he said. This mentality is commonly shared among individuals who go through the PierceWorks! program. After Nikki Jackola lost her job, she enrolled in PierceWorks! An example of one of PierceWorks! success stories, Jackola is now the proud owner of an Aveda franchise at South Hill Mall.
Brooks says the program is a great success for the individuals that it serves and wants people to know that they’re not alone in their struggle. PierceWorks! is here to help you find the motivation, drive and confidence you need to get back on your feet.
The next seven week session starts on Monday, April 21. To find out if there are still open seats available, or to learn more about summer session, click here.
All photos courtesy Pierce College.
1601 39th Aveneue
Puyallup, WA 98374