Back to school for new job opportunities
Work Smart by Polly Smith
Continuing Education & Post-Secondary Education & Funding Options
Are you thinking about going back to school for a diploma, degree or certificate? That’s an excellent idea, whatever your age. You are not alone, post-secondary institutions are hosting huge numbers of adult students returning to upgrade their education these days.
Choosing a new career is a big investment of time and money. You are probably wondering how much I get paid for this type of wisdom? ($0.00) While it’s important to research the labour market and try to gauge where future jobs will be, it’s a bit like reading a crystal ball. I truly believe you have to look at yourself first. What types of jobs you are suited to doing? What are you willing and able to commit to in terms of time and money for education and then where will you apply your new career? See the Work Smart article from May 18th, 2009 for more information on career exploration.
Check out these websites for personality and interest tests to help start your career planning path:
There is also a great (free) handout at the Chatham-Kent Employment Centres in Chatham & Wallaceburg (www.chatham-kent.ca/erc) called “Career Exploration Next Steps” that will take you step by step through the process of career exploration.
Once you get a short list of possible careers, talk to people you know, and try to link with friends of friends who work in your careers of interest. Ask them questions about job opportunities, what a day in the life of the career is like, what skills are needed, and about the future of the industry. Can they lead you to someone else who would be willing to share information on this career? This might be easiest done on the phone. A lot of “experts” say, book an informational interview with employers. In today’s economy most companies are doing more with less, and are not in recruitment mode, so making time for things like “informational interviews” is a challenge, but a phone call or even an email is usually not an issue and people tend to be willing to help.
Is there any opportunity to volunteer or job shadow at their company or one they know about? If they don’t have a formal program at the company, you’ll need an “in” through someone who works there. Sampling a type of work this way before investing your time and money in education is a great idea if at all possible.
DO NOT PASS GO until you complete these career exploration steps! I have seen so many people start the wrong program and waste time and money by not researching. No surprise, I learned this the hard way myself, moving from Chatham to Toronto to study for a career in fashion, only to find out I actually thought fashion was kind of dumb (sorry Stacey & Clinton). I did not want to live in a big city ( I♥ C-K) and I did not want to manage a retail store working evenings and weekends. I ended up quitting school, got a minimum wage job to pay the rent and thanks to an awesome caring College Instructor, applied for and went to University the next September. She explained that in University it didn’t matter that I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up and she was right.
Well that was true in 1986 anyway. Of course, one semester of tuition, books, moving and living expenses in Toronto went down the drain. Perhaps you want to upgrade or update a little through Continuing Education programs at our local Post Secondary institutions. We are so fortunate to have these fine schools right here in Chatham-Kent. These schools are in growth mode, venturing into new programs, and expanding their buildings and services.
There are different classes starting all the time, and it’s still possible to get into some fall programs now. Keep an eye on their websites, they offer new programs and courses often.
Nearby Colleges & Universities:
For a list of all post-secondary schools check out: www.ontariocolleges.ca and www.Canadian-universities.net
Colleges and universities also offer online training, check out their websites for details. Some College programs are “Open” which means they are still taking applications and don’t have strict entrance requirements. They should however, have an assessment process to determine if you are able to be successful in the course.
Remember, if they offer you upgrading courses with fees, before starting you on the credit programs, that there may be FREE options in the community – see the Work Smart article from May 26, 2009.
If you are thinking of full time school – check out all the institutions, and if possible, when researching your field of choice, find out what diplomas, degrees and institutions are preferred by the companies who hire in the industry. Look at job ads for requirements; this is simple to do online.
Some people like the idea of the private colleges short-term “condensed” program options. Community Colleges now offer accelerated programs as well. It’s really important that your diploma or certificate is considered valuable by employers. Ask people in the hiring game; is an ACME College Diploma considered equal to a St Clair College Diploma in your field? You really want to make sure your time and money are well spent.
Show me the money!
Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) – OSAP offers students loans that have lower cost somewhat flexible repayment programs that commence after the student finishes school. They will forgive portions of the loans for those in financial hardship, and will work with people on payment concerns. BUT if you ever default on an OSAP loan, you will not be considered again. Online info is available at: https://osap.gov.on.ca/eng/eng_osap_main.html. Your school’s Financial Aid office can help answer questions regarding your application and how things work as well.
Ontario Skills Development (OSD) – In Chatham-Kent this program is offered through Goodwill’s Employment Action Centre. People who are unemployed (or working less than 20 hours per week) receiving (EI) Employment Insurance Benefits, or have received EI in the past 3 years or EI Maternity benefits in the past 5 years may qualify for funding for shorter term training programs (i.e.: welding, truck driving, PSW) including tuition and books. Call Goodwill EAC for details or an appointment at 519-354-4400.
Second Career – There has been a lot of hype about this one and lot of disappointed people, but many other happy campers. The rules have changed on this program so if you applied before Nov. 1, 2008 and were denied, check it out again. Second Career will fund up to $28,000 for tuition and living expenses. Both the person and the educational program must qualify. In a nutshell, you have to have become unemployed or underemployed after 2005, in need of training for better employment opportunities. The Goodwill EAC staff can provide detailed info and will also try to find the best program for you (OSD or Second Career) in a seamless way. Call Goodwill EAC for details or an appointment at 519-354-4400.
First Nations Programs – First Nations people can access a wide a variety of programs via their band. Each band generally has an Economic Development & Training office, and this is where people should start to find information on educational funding options.
Ontario Works (OW) – Will pay for application fees for people receiving OWA if it is part of their individual case plan. OW also pays for some continuing education courses. OWA participants and sole support parents with low income may receive a discount on their course fees (St Clair College – continuing education only) by speaking with the Registrar’s office.
Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP) – this is a Revenue Canada program that allows adults to pay for their own, or their spouse’s education by withdrawing RRSP funds. There are lots of rules so check out this link http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/tpcs/rrsp-reer/llp-reep/menu-eng.html
We will discuss apprenticeship in depth in a future column, but in the meantime, here is a website to check out:
These options do not imply that it will be easy to return to school. Sacrifices will likely need to be made, especially if you are planning on going to school for a longer period of time. The pay-offs could be well worth it. Most importantly, when it comes to education and funding information, go to the source with your questions, do not rely on written information or hearsay, speak to the people who do the work, offer the program or funding for the best information. Ask and know!
“Achievement seems to be connected with action. Successful men and women keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.” – Conrad Hilton Sr. (Paris’s Great Grandpa)
1.) For OSD & Second Career you will need to get labour market information etc. Get as much help as you can from Goodwill EAC staff, but access the Chatham-Kent Employment Resource Centre, Job Connect or any employment counsellor you are working with to help.
2.) Were you denied funding? Not given enough funding? Unless it’s very straight forward (you have too much money) – APPEAL! Ask what the appeal process is. If there isn’t one, call your local MPP.
3.) Work with your school’s Financial Aid Office, they can help with OSAP and other funding including bursaries (small grants).
It pays to go to school!
Recent Statistics Canada Study shows that:
- 80% of Post-Secondary grads of 2005 found full time employment by 2007
- Earnings increased with the level of study
- College Grads average starting wage was $35,000
- A Bachelor’s Degree Grad’s average starting wage was $45,000
- A Master’s Degree Grad’s average starting wage was $60,000
- PHD Grad’s average starting wage was $65,000.
Information taken from Statistics Canada “The Daily” see link for full details: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/090422/dq090422a-eng.htm
Polly Smith has worked in the world of employment counselling and programs for over 16 years. You can read her introductory message here.
Questions or your own “good news story on job change” may be sent to Polly Smith at: firstname.lastname@example.org