Workers get retrained to improve employability

Published: Friday, March 8 2013 6:30 p.m. MST

Intermountain was among three hospital groups that participated in the cohort program, along with the University of Utah Hospitals and Iasis Healthcare. Each company had its own standards for participation.

“It’s nice for the hospitals because they have proven employees who then become nurses and continue to work for the (companies),” said Judy Scott, associate dean for the Division of Nursing at Salt Lake Community College. “It’s great for the students because they have a (career improvement) opportunity. It’s a multiplicity of wins across the board for everybody.”

Scott said students who join the program range from truck drivers, dishwashers, certified nursing assistants, to secretaries — all seeking the chance to change their lives.

While some people choose a major career shift, others want to bolster their qualifications in their chosen career field.

Lecia Thornton, 56, of Eagle Mountain had worked as an office manager for a small company for 16 years performing various functions, including human resource administration. Initially the company had fewer than 10 employees, making her job relatively simple, but it soon ballooned to 120 workers in a one-year period — creating an entirely different administrative environment.

She was asked to become the human resources manager for the firm.

“I did not know all the rules and regulations,” Thornton said. “I had not gone to school for human resources.”

In 2005, she was able to enroll in the Custom Fit training program at the college and became certified in human resources management. The 12-week course required her to attend class one night per week for four hours each evening.

That training eventually brought her to her current job as a human resources administrator at Moog Medical Devices Group in Salt Lake City. She said without the certification, she would not be in the position she is in now.

“I don’t have (a bachelor’s degree), but I do have my professional in human resources certification and a number of years of experience,” the married mother of four said. She said being able to further her career at this stage of her working life was a “big weight off (her) shoulders.”

Both Linder and Thornton received training through Salt Lake Community College, but such programs are offered at other institutions as well.

The Utah Department of Workforce Services offers information on job-training programs at traditional and for-profit colleges as well as state applied technology schools. See jobs.utah.gov/services/training.html for information.

Thousands of Utahns have received training, including a high of nearly 11,500 in 2009, but the numbers have declined over the past three years.

“We have some people who need basic training and some who have been displaced out of their occupation that need retraining because there is no labor market to go back to,” said Karla Aguirre, Department of Workforce Services director of Program and Policy in Workforce Development. The average cost of training is between $2,500 and $3,000 per person, she said.

She said that despite robust demand, federal funding for training programs has declined over the past several years, making it tougher to help many people in search of career assistance.

“When people can’t find jobs, they think the only thing they can do is go back to school,” Aguirre said.

According to the University of Utah’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, enrollments at SLCC and other institutions of higher education climbed during the economic recession as workers looked for ways to increase their marketability.

“This is absolutely evidence of people retooling during the recession,” said Pam Perlich, BEBR senior research economist.

E-mail: jlee@deseretnews.com

Twitter: JasenLee1

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