"Workforce Education at Green River was VERY instrumental in allowing me to go back to school, and I'm grateful for all the assistance I received and continue to receive." - Genie L, Green River Student

"Make sure you talk to Workforce Education...They can help in many ways to make things go smoothly and make sense." - Chris S, Green River Student

"Workforce Education...will embrace you and lend a helping hand with open hearts." Elsie Q, Green River Student

"Workforce Education has been there for me since day one!" - Jenny S, Green River student

Sep 2, 2010

Make Career Development Pay

In turbulent economic times like these, attending a community or technical college to update a skill set or retrain for a new occupation is a logical course of action to pursue.  But the decision to go to school, according to a recent New York Times article by Tara Siegel Bernard, needs to be treated like any other investment decision. You need to weigh the potential returns and closely manage the costs.

When considering an "investment" in education and especially before enrolling in a training program, Bernard argues that you should ask the same sorts of questions that a portfolio manager might ask when analyzing a stock investment, including: 
  • Am I earning a reputable credential, degree, or certificate?
  • Is the cost of earning that credential feasable?
  • How can I minimize my expenses?
  • What is demand like in the field I'm retraining for?
  • What are my earnings potential?
As Bernard goes on to observe in her article, the more radical the shift in careers you contemplate, the more research you should do in answering these questions.  This is an obvious but important point to make. She therefore proceeds to offer the following tips for those who are considering a change in careers.

Research Career Options.  Bernard recommends O*NET OnLine, which is a website maintained by the Department Of Labor and which allows users to research employment opportunities and salary information for different professions.  Washington State residents can also cross-reference O*NET findings with www.wilma/org/wdclists, which is a website that allows users to reseach employment and salary information on jobs across the state.

Seek Employer Aid. If you have a job, writes Bernard, ask your employer about available tuition-assistance programs.

Ask For Government Help.  Bernard correctly points out that people collecting Unemployment Insurance may be eligible to collect benefits while going to school and even to receive additional benefits after their regular unemployment claim has run out. This is true in Washington State.  The Employment Sercurities Department offers the Training Benefits Program to unemployed workers who are in need of retraining. For more information, check out our ealier blog post entitled "Let's Talk Training Benefits."

Apply For Grants.  A no-brainer.  Before you borrow money, cautions Bernard, search for grants and scholarships to help you pay for school ("grant" = gift aid = money you don't have to pay back).  For potential Green River students interested in job (re)training, significant funding streams may include Worker Retraining, Opportunity Grant, Basic Food Employment & Training, WorkFirst, Federal Financial Aid, GRCC Foundation Scholarships, Workforce Investment Act Funding, WAVE scholarships, as well as scholarships advertised on http://www.thewashboard.org/.  

Investigate Tax Breaks.  Bernard also highlights the fact that the Lifetime Learning Credit, which is geared for continuing education, can be used for an unlimited number of years and for a wide range of schooling.