Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

An open letter to jobseekers – finding the right continuing education resources and programs

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on December 3, 2014

I have been at least periodically writing open letters to students and jobseekers in this blog for most of the time that I have written anything to it, with my first of these postings: An Open Letter to the Class of 2010, and to the Class of 2011 going live on the blog in June, 2010. And I continue that pattern here with this letter.

I have written a number of times and have discussed in face to face discussions and in talks, the importance of education and of degree and professional certification programs in becoming more competitively valuable in the job search market, and certainly for anyone who finds themselves out of work because their current skills and experience are in progressively decreasing demand. That observation has only become more valid in recent years as the nature of employability has changed, as it has done and quite rapidly and certainly since the workforce contractions and reorientations of the Great Recession. But as the experience of the marketplace and of a great many jobseekers would attest, some continuing education and training programs are better than others and even much, much better – and some would qualify more as costly traps for the unwary than as opportunities.

Quite simply, there is a lot of money out there that would-be training and retraining programs and degree programs can bring in for their providing institutions. This includes direct from student tuition and related fees. It includes government-provided financial aid that can be available for a variety of reasons. Military service veterans often get educational grants as part of the government’s recognition of service provided and of sacrifice made. And governmental aid can also arrive as part of unemployment benefits for eligible jobseekers as part of programs for getting capable working age citizens back to work. This type of financial support can at least occasionally include funds that are made available from a former employer when at least some help with retraining is included in a severance package. This in fact includes funds that can come in from a wide range of sources and I add mission driven support from nonprofits as yet another example.

Most of the educational institutions and other businesses that provide training and educational services are legitimate insofar as they genuinely do offer at least some educational opportunity. But even there, some are structured and run in ways that lead to very few of their students successfully completing a program, and some have very poor success rates for their program graduates as they take their new degrees and certificates and look for work with them.

• Before you invest any money from any funding source in a training program, find out from third parties that you would have reason to trust for their knowledge and objectivity, what those program completion rates are for students who enroll in them.
• Find out what the actual costs would be for pursuing one of their programs to completion and what of that would be paid for out of pocket by the student and even if they have, for example, unemployment benefits support. And remember, if you expend a tuition voucher provided to you through an unemployment benefits program or from essentially any supporting service, and the training program that you use it on does not work out, you have used up that funding resource and would in most cases have to pay out of pocket for any second try elsewhere.
• And find out what percentage of a program’s graduates actually find full time competitively paid work in their fields, and what the average job search time is for them from after they complete their program training.

I write this with a number of sources of impetus in mind, including a wide range of online colleges and training program-providing businesses that have consistently shown very poor success rates, and by all of the above noted measures. There are good, effective training programs out there but there are lower-quality but equally expensive ones too.

I specifically write this open letter with one particular poster child example of those lower quality training programs in mind. And it is one that has found itself more in the news than most for its shortcomings: the Corinthian Colleges. This is an educational institution that grew rapidly as a profitable enterprise for offering training and retraining continuing education programs for people seeking to become employable again. Then it was forced by the US Department of Education and by an onslaught of law suits from former students and program graduates, to close down many of those continuing education programs for their failures.

So seek out continuing education and certification training programs as a route to becoming more competitively employable, and with new skills that the job market calls for. But do so with open eyes and with an open and even somewhat skeptical mind. Ask about their track record of success and ask how they measure it so you really understand what any numbers that they offer you actually mean. And do your research as to what real world employers are really looking for – if you are looking to pick up a particular in-demand new skills set, look through the online job descriptions for the types of work you would seek out, and ask yourself how many of them demand both training in those skills and hands-on workplace experience using them. Know what a training program offers and what the employers that you would approach after going through such a program, are actually looking for. Note: a training program that includes an on-site internship component with a participating business, where you get to real-world use your new skills can provide both, at least in principle. And a business that participates in a training program in this way could, at least in principle take this as an opportunity to try before buying and hire graduating students who have proven themselves to be sufficiently valuable for that. Find out if this has happened and how realistic it might be as a possibility. Look into the details and select the right program for you, if you chose to pursue this approach as a knowledgeable consumer.

You can find this and other material about jobs and careers at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide, with my jobs and careers-oriented open letters included at the bottom of those directory pages as supplemental postings.

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