Re-careering vs. Education: Unemployed workers can go back to school or re-shape their skill to enhance job prospects
When Ronald Schilling, 54, of Black Canyon City lost his job as a truck driver in July 2008, the future looked bleak.
“I just didn’t see myself at the age I am, getting a job driving a 12-foot box truck and busting my butt for $8 or $9 an hour,” he says.
His uncle suggested he go back to school. Now, Schilling is in the honors program at Glendale Community College with a 3.9 grade point average and is on track to enter nursing school.
Schilling is one of a growing number of returning students who are re-careering after losing jobs, and many are getting training and education to increase their chances in the competitive job market.
Mature students are on the rise in higher education. Between 2000 and 2009, the enrollment of students under age 25 increased by 27 percent, but enrollment of ages 25 and up rose 43 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
The majority of online students at Thunderbird Online are ages 38 to 42, says Joe Patterson, assistant vice president and executive director of Thunderbird Online at Thunderbird School of Global Management.
Still, the idea of going back to school can be daunting, especially because of time and cost. Tuition can range from $299 for a two-week bartending course through ABC Bartending and Casino School in Tempe, to more than $86,000 for a 60-credit master’s degree in business administration degree from Thunderbird.
One way to mitigate the cost, say those in higher education, is to take non-degree courses. This can keep up your skill set to ensure “life employability,” said Scott Schulz, director of career and employment services at Glendale CC, one of the Maricopa County Community Colleges.
Online programs allow students to take classes when it’s convenient, and offer accelerated degree programs. Thunderbird Online offers executive certificates for three eight-week accredited non-degree classes, all the way to a full M.B.A in a year. The W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University offers multiple ways to earn an M.B.A., including online.
No longer is there a stigma to online education, Patterson says. Even top-tier universities such as Stanford and Cornell offer e-learning.
Whether on campus or online, academic classes are more than ivory tower ideas.
Instructors usually are also connected to and working in their industries, so they not only know what’s needed in the job market, they can make important referrals. Networking with other students is essential, too. You never know who might pass along that integral inside job tip.
Volunteering is another way to get a foot in the door. Schilling, the trucker-turned-nursing student, volunteers each week at John C. Lincoln Deer Valley Hospital in Phoenix. And Mark Scarp of Scottsdale, a newspaper columnist who was laid off in January 2009, parlayed his 20 years of volunteering with the Society of Professional Journalists into a job as membership director with the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.
While it’s a good idea to invest in continuing education, career counselors say to assess your strengths, weaknesses, passions and goals first, and keep in mind the idea of career management rather than simply career advancement.
“I think we’ve all heard the term ‘climbing the career ladder,’” Schulz says. “I think what it’s changed to is a career lattice or career web. It’s not as linear. You may have to move sideways or diagonally to get to that next opportunity.”
Where to take classes if you’re considering re-careering:
Anthem College, (602) 279-9700, www.anthem.edu
Apollo College, (602) 864-1571, www.apollocollege.edu
Arizona State University, (6020 496-INFO, www.asu.edu
Collins College, (602) 997-2166, www.collinscollege.edu
DeVry University, (602) 870-9222, www.phx.devry.edu
Grand Canyon University, (877) 860-3951, www.gcu.edu
Maricopa County Community College District, (480) 731-8000, www.maricopa.edu. Campuses include Chandler-Gilbert Community College; Estrella Mountain Community College; Glendale Community College; GateWay Community College; Mesa Community College; Paradise Valley Community College; Phoenix College; Rio Salado College; Scottsdale Community College; and South Mountain Community College.
Northern Arizona University, (800) 426-8315, www.nau.edu
Midwestern University, (623) 572-3215, www.midwestern.edu
Thunderbird School of Global Management, (602) 978-7000, www.thunderbird.edu
University of Arizona, (520) 621-3237, www.arizona.edu
University of Phoenix, (866) 766-0766, www.phoenix.edu
Western International University, (602) 943-2311, www.west.edu