Once upon a time, having a strong back and a willingness to work hard were all that were required to land a job and stay employed.
If you are one of the tens of thousands of Americans suddenly out of work today, you are probably feeling a bit overwhelmed, maybe even like Rip Van Winkle - as if you'd fallen asleep, and the world of work and the way you acquire a new job shifted overnight.
Tech Knowledge Required
Technology skills, or a lack thereof, have surfaced as a particularly problematic area for many of the recently jobless. Being proficient with computers is something that almost all jobs now require, including entry-level positions. Even positions in traditional resource-based industries, like logging, fishing, and farming, now require levels of computer literacy that weren't necessary in the past.
If you don't have basic computer skills, or if you're comfortable with the basics but would like to have better business-related technology skills, you need to know what resources are available to you for an "upgrade."
WorkReady and Other Programs
One program that has been getting favorable reviews from employers for its soft skills orientation, coupled with 20 hours of basic computer literacy training, is a program called WorkReady, offered through each state's local Workforce board.
- In Maine, WorkReady partners with Maine Adult Education. Funded by the Maine State Library's BTOP grant and available to Maine public library patrons, LearningExpress Library is a new, interactive online learning platform that features over 770 practice tests, tutorials, and e-books related to job search and workplace skills improvement, as well as other career exploration support.
- In New Hampshire, NH WorkReady is administered through the community college system, providing assessment, instruction and credentialing in key skill areas.
- In Vermont, students can earn a Career Ready Certificate through the Community College of Vermont. Free to participants approved by the Department of Labor, classes meet twice a week for three to four hours during a 10-week period, working through six training modules.
- In Massachusetts, the State offers what's called Section 30 Training Opportunities Program, where you can receive up to an additional 26 weeks of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits if you are in an approved training program. A job specialist can help locate resources to pay for your training, including federal or state grants and loans.
- In Rhode Island, netWORKri has a large resource of information for job seekers, including skills testing and assessment and job search workshops.
Training Grants and Adult Education
If you are a seasoned worker (age 55 or older), and are in need of a skills upgrade, Maine and Vermont are two of 10 states awarded Aging Worker Initiative grants. The grants provide training in a variety of areas, including computer skills. For more information about these trainings, contact your regional local Workforce board office, and get connected with a Seasoned Worker Navigator.
Many local adult education programs offer basic computer literacy courses that typically run for three or four weeks, or longer. Adult ed computer courses help you learn the fundamental computer skills you need to succeed in today's workplace, leading you gradually and gently into the computer age.
The need for technology skills is only going to increase. Now is the time to take advantage of available options and put down a skills foundation that you can build on in the future.
Jim Baumer is the Director of Business Services for the Central/Western Maine Workforce Investment Board, a nonprofit where he's worked for the past five years. In addition, he's also an entrepreneur, a writer, as well as an independent publisher with two books in print and new ones on the way. Jim posts additional pieces at his blog.