Training and Certification

Rubel Khan's Blog

In interesting article about Certification by Michelle Singletary

Posted by Rubel Khan on September 14, 2009

Singletary: Road back from unemployment can be tough

By Michelle Singletary
Sunday, September 13, 2009

Long-term unemployment can work on a man’s nerves.

Being rejected time and time again can rob anyone of self-esteem, but for many men this recession has hit them particularly hard.

That’s certainly the case with Juan Wilson. He and his wife, Bobbie, are participating in this year’s Color of Money Challenge.

Since the first of the year, I’ve been working with Juan and Bobbie as they search for employment. Typically, participants have a goal of getting out of debt, saving, and developing better money-management skills. This time, I wanted to specifically help people who had lost their jobs.

Bobbie has landed a number of jobs, although her latest is only a temporary position as a paralegal. Her contract was scheduled to end in October but has now been extended to Dec. 31.

I’ve also been working with another challenger, Rick Rose, who lost his $85,000-a-year job in May 2008.

Nationwide, unemployment has reached 9.7 percent, with many experts saying it will soon hit 10 percent. Delve more into the statistics and it’s already a bleak picture for men, especially black men such as Wilson.

“It’s hard to stay motivated,” Wilson said.

The same has been true for Rose.

“My lowest point was at the end of 2008,” he said. “My resources were starting to run thin. I thought my unemployment was going to run out. The job market was particularly bleak at that point. I didn’t have any leads or responses to openings.”

Juan Wilson is at his lowest point now. He lost his job at a semiconductor company in 2008. He’s sent out countless résumés and went on many job interviews. He managed to get some part-time work, but that was temporary.

“Since the Great Recession began in December 2007, there has been a sharp rise in the number of married couples where a woman is left to bring home the bacon because her husband is unemployed,” Heather Boushey, a senior economist at the Center for American Progress, wrote in a recent report.

Boushey notes in “Women Breadwinners, Men Unemployed” that because men have lost three out of every four jobs that have been cut nationwide, more married couples must rely on the woman to be the principal wage-earner.

The unemployment rate for adult men older 20 is already at 10.1 percent. For adult black men, it’s a staggering 17 percent. That’s compared to 7.6 percent for women of all races.

As of July, 15.6 percent of working wives had husbands who were not on the job, up a stunning 3.5 percentage points from early 2007, when 12.1 percent of working wives had husbands who were not employed. Since the recession began, many families are struggling with unemployment of both the husband and wife, Boushey said in her report.

And what kind of strain does that put on a marriage?

You probably already knew.

“There have been some days when I thought we wouldn’t make it,” Bobbie said. “It’s been extremely frustrating and crazy. We argue a lot over finances.”

“We are definitely fighting more,” Juan said.

It’s been difficult for Bobbie — and me — to get Juan to work on managing what little money they do have coming in.

“It’s just hard when you are the one with no income,” he said.

Juan hopes things will turn around now that he’s signed up for a series of technology courses at a local community college. The training will help prepare him for to become a Cisco-certified network associate.

“The Cisco Networking Academy enables individuals like Juan Wilson to obtain jobs involving a broad spectrum of IT and networking equipment, not just Cisco’s,” said Carroll McGillin, a Cisco spokesperson. “Skills and knowledge from such programs are in high demand despite the distressed economy as today nearly every new network requires new experts to design, build and maintain the collaborative infrastructure highway that the public and private sector both depend on.”

McGillin said employment rates for those who graduate from the program vary, but people who achieve IT certification are often “fast-tracked” to employment and receive higher pay compared to those who do not hold certifications.

It’s that hope of getting a job fast that led the Wilsons to scrape together the $644 in cash for the tuition and fees for the first course.

“Hopefully, I’ll benefit from this training,” Wilson said.

The waiting and the doubting are over for Rick Rose.

After 15 months of unemployment, he’s working again. He was hired in August as marketing and communications manager for a new partnership between the Brookings Institution and the John M. Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis.

“It was a pretty tough process,” said Jackson Nickerson, director of the Brookings-Olin partnership. “Rick had the maturity, good communication skills and on top of that, great marketing skills.”

Rose said having a job makes him feel normal again.

“Having an interesting, motivating job is a great reason to get up in the morning,” he said.

There is a bit of down news along with this great news.

Rick had to take a huge pay cut. He’s now making $50,000 a year.

“I guess I could look at it as 41 percent cut, but I choose to look at it as a 100 percent increase from no income,” Rose said. “It is going to be an adjustment, I know, but I see this as a foot in the door. There is a lot of room for growth. I don’t see it as a setback at all.”

— Readers can write to Michelle Singletary c/o The Washington Post, 1150 15th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071. Her e-mail address is singletarym@washpost.com. Comments and questions are welcome, but due to the volume of mail, personal responses may not be possible. Please also note comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.

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