SALT LAKE CITY — Finding a job in Utah is a relatively easy task compared to other states.
The state's 3.4 percent unemployment rate is among the lowest in the country and annual job growth in the Beehive State is at the same robust 3.4 percent, according to the state Department of Workforce Services. Nearly 1.5 million Utahns are currently registered as gainfully employed.
But not all of those people are happy in their circumstance.
Johna Simkins, 26, is a single mom who had a bachelor's degree in exercise science from Brigham Young University, but was not really using it working at an orthodontics office. However, working in the medical field, she became interested in the industry. When a friend asked her what she was doing with her life, it was then that she decided to make a change.
"I really liked what I was doing, but all the (education) I had (obtained) at BYU wasn't worth what I was doing (job-wise)," she said. Originally, she wanted to pursue a career as a doctor, but that plan didn't work out when she found herself married as a young woman with a child. Then things fell apart and she found herself floundering a bit.
"I unfortunately got divorced about two-and-a-half years ago," Simkins said. "During that whole time, I was thinking, 'I can't support my son and me.'"
She knew that in order to make the kind of living necessary to provide for herself and her 5-year old boy, she would have to find a new career.
"I knew I'd have to go back to school at some point," she said. "That's when I looked into nursing. I knew I'd have to do something more for my son."
Today, she is completing her education and certification to become a registered nurse after getting help from the Department of Workforce Services to enroll in school and obtain some financial aid to pay for school. It's been a life-changing experience, she added.
"It's allowed me to be financially able to provide for my son," Simkins said. "It also makes the post graduate student loan dreariness not so dreary."
Because the monetary assistance she was able to qualify for, she is able to afford to pay the loans she had taken out to get her nursing degree.
"Something I can actually swallow," Simkins said. "It's not like, 'Here, here's my first born.'"
DWS data indicated that registered nurses are among Utah's most currently in-demand occupations with an associate's degree, bachelor's degree or master's degree.
The agency has available funding designated for programs that are specifically aimed at helping Utahns who are looking for work or attempting to move into a new career field, explained Karla Aguirre, director of Program and Policy in the Workforce Development Division for DWS.
"If somebody is under-employed or unemployed, or they have a large family, they would qualify," she said. "If someone got laid off or lost their job, then we have specific funds for dislocated workers."
There is also funding available to individuals who've lost their jobs due to companies outsourcing or moving to another country, she added.
"(Candidates) can go into any employment center and ask for assistance," Aguirre said. The agency also uses a program called UtahFutures to help candidates figure out what career path might be better suited for them, she noted.
"We like to talk to people individually about their circumstances and what they need to support their family," she said. Counselors work with candidates one-on-one to help get them on the right path, she added.
Aguirre said some people underestimate how transferable their skills might be to another career field, and they should avoid limiting their options.
"Sometimes we can help them in looking for employment they may not even have thought about," she said. "There are a lot of options, especially in Utah where the unemployment rate is (so low)."