Ohioans hit by hard economy retrain to change fields

An option for workers affected by closed factories, manufacturing outsourcing and lay-offs is “retraining” or “re-education” for employment in different fields. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services says they expect 44-hundred Ohioans to enroll in retraining programs this year.

A revolving door marks one of the entrances to Columbus State’s Center for Workforce Development. Inside one of the center classrooms, Instructor Jim Cowan teaches an Introduction to Construction Trades course. The class has 12 students, 9 male and 3 female, some old and some young. The course is part of Columbus State’s Orientation to Trades and Apprenticeship Program (OTAP) that leads to guaranteed apprenticeships and jobs to those who finish the program. Most in the group are individuals tired of revolving from job to job and repeated lay-offs. Cowan says the Center helps students get some much-needed job security.

“I emphasize the fact that these trades are a transferable, portable skill. You’re not going to be downsized, right-sized or capsized, overseas. You know, nobody in India or China are going to do your job,” Cowin said.

Part of the requirements for unemployed workers receiving state assistance for retraining programs is that they be trained in areas where there is a demand for work, such as healthcare or construction.

Assistant Director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Bruce Madson, says for unemployed Ohioans, gaining new skills is essential to get back into the workforce quickly.

“What we’re seeing in Ohio, I think we’ve seen a shift in the kinds of jobs that are available that don’t necessary line up well with the skills of those who are being laid off. That produces a situation where expectations are going to be for a longer duration of unemployment and maybe taking lower paying positions unless they obtain the training that matches their skills up with that growth is occurring within the economy,” Madson explained.

Instructor Jim Cowan says his course teaches both the skills and the attitude needed to get and keep a job.

“Look to see what you can do to make things better. I mean just showing up and putting in your time is one thing. Better show up, stay late, clean up when the other guys are taking off. So it’s a lot of attitude that we’re trying to convey to the learners,” Cowan said.

34 year-old laid-off truck driver Dereck Boone gets ready for the 5-hour lesson back in the Introduction for Construction Trade. He says it is not easy transforming from worker to unemployed and now to student.

“That part of it I wasn’t prepared for but thats the part I do like the most, just being able to get back into that. And hopefully doing well on the tests and show I can do the work at home and not just while I’m sitting in class,” Boon said.

48 year-old Toni Ingram says one thing she is looking forward to after she completes her construction training is job security, something she says she never got from her previous temp jobs.

“I’m looking forward to basic job security, to be able to have a decent home… after awhile, to be able to live comfortable and not have to suffer like I’m doing right now,” Ingram said.

Boone says he wants to remodel old houses after he finishes retraining. He says he’s excited but does not want to be laid-off again.

“Hopefully, this is my last stop in terms of starting all over again so thats the best part of it,” Boon said.

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