Unemployed People Land on Their Feet and Reach for the Stars
by Lisa Files
If you have been laid off and are collecting unemployment, you will find solace, and maybe even nirvana, in the Retraining Assistance Center at Triton. This office provides a full menu of help. It begins with an appetizer of counseling, continues with the main course of free tuition for retraining in one of 40 certificate areas, and then finishes with the dessert of job placement assistance. Even if your unemployment benefits have run out or you simply qualify for Food Stamps, you may still be eligible for help.
Bill Lesus has seen peaks and valleys in the job market during his 24 years as a Senior Training and Assessment Specialist in the Retraining Assistance Center.
“Some people will come here to enhance the skills they already had,” says Senior Training and Assessment Specialist Bill Lesus. “Or some people say, ‘I know this area is a dead industry right now. I need to do something completely different.’ For instance, the printing industry has been very hard hit, so some people will earn our Visual Communications certificate, which is more computer based.”
The Retraining Assistance Center gets its funding from the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) but also received an additional grant from the recently completed Obama stimulus. The 40 Triton College certificate programs covered by these funds are in job growth areas ranging from health care to business computing to education to service fields. Automotive Technology, Criminal Justice, and Landscape Design are just a few more, with most certificates taking a year to complete.
Laina Krisik while expanding her skills though the Retraining Assistance Center, landed a job there herself as a Job Placement Specialist, helping students write their resumes and cover letters.
Laina Krisik used to work as a writer for a non-profit publishing organization when she was given the pink slip. After two years without a job, her unemployment benefits were about to run out when she came to the Retraining Assistance Center. She enrolled in the Web Technologies certificate program, and all her tuition, books, fees, and required materials were covered.
While Laina went through the screening process, Bill Lesus was so impressed with her writing skills that he hired her to help students write their resumes and cover letters. Now she is a Job Placement Specialist in Career Services at Triton. Laina hopes to use the technology skills she’s acquiring to revise the Career Services section of the Triton website. She quips, “I’ve been waiting to get my hands on that.”
Bill says he works with unemployed people of all ages, but most of them are between the age of 30 and 60. “The mature workers usually have a good work ethic: they have a family, they have a mortgage, they have car payments, so they work with a purpose. If they are laid off, it’s most likely because of their salary level after 20 years. Right now it’s a buyer’s market for employers; there are so many candidates available that employers can go bargain shopping.”
John Mosinki lost his job in 2009 after 20 years working in fire protection for a company he loved. His lifelong dream had been to become a certified master auto mechanic, but there were no family funds left for his education, with three of his four children in college already.
After enrolling in the WIA program, John wrote a letter of thanks to Bill: “This program allowed me to pursue my own education while not sacrificing my children’s dreams.” Though he is still working towards completing the Automotive Technology certificate, Career Services has given John resources on job fairs and job searching already.
The Retraining Assistance Center’s success rate in helping people find employment is superior, at 100 percent for their most recent stimulus grant. Also, their “exit” rate, which measures the expected versus attained income of each enrollee, was 250 percent over their initial goal.
Currently, the Retraining Assistance Center is helping about 300 people with a staff of five or so: three Training Assessment Specialists, one Job Search Specialist, and a secretary. Additionally, there are two part-time employees who offer Work Keys. These are special tests that show competency in reading, math, and locating information (charts and graphs). When students complete the Work Keys, they have a certificate to add to their resume, which makes them more desirable for employment.
Bill has been working at the Retraining Assistance Center for 24 years, so he has walked the economic hills and valleys with many displaced workers. “Everything happens in cycles; it’s always bound to repeat. While we are in a general economic downturn now, we can probably expect things to go up. At least it’s been that way since I’ve been in this position. In fact, we’ve seen a great upturn recently in people finding employment.”
Hellene Delgado is one of those success stories. Three years ago she lost her job and did not have funds to return to school. Through the WIA program at the Retraining Assistance Center, Hellene expanded her health care skills and then took the state board exam to become a licensed practical nurse.
“Mr. Lesus and his associates supported me every step of the way,” she affirms. “They also helped me find an excellent place of employment with job security and excellent benefits. The WIA program is very important. It has helped many people, and I am proud to say it has helped me personally.”
If you think you might qualify, visit their office in the A Building (A-250), just inside the front door, on the right.