Career Training Courses: Helpful Tools or Wastes of Time?

Career Training Courses: Helpful Tools or Wastes of Time?

Peter Weddle

Career Training Courses are a waste of time – at least, that's the conclusion of the U.S. Labor Department after studying the experience of 160,000 laid off workers who went through subsidized career training courses. After surveying how these newly-trained job seekers fared in the job market, the DOL found that their career training courses neither helped them get a new job, nor hang onto one if they were able to get hired.

So does that mean you shouldn't bother with additional career training courses when you're looking for a new job? Absolutely not. But there's a right way and a wrong way to go about upgrading your career skill set. And the key to success is to recognize the difference between the two, and to immerse yourself in the kind of courses that will actually help you.

A recent article in The New York Times recounted the experience of an administrative assistant who was laid off in early 2009. The state unemployment office urged him to upgrade his skills, so he spent six weeks in a training program on word processing and spreadsheets. He finished the course, updated his resume and started looking for a new job. But he never got a single job offer. Why? Because, as the Department of Labor's own research shows, the job market for administrative assistants is shrinking, not growing. This person took training courses for a career with a nonexistent job market.

However, while this type of story is all too familiar today, it does not mean that career training courses are a waste of time. The problem is that most courses promoted by state governments are designed to give you specific job skills, so you can get a job that you wouldn't have been qualified for in the past. But if demand for that specific job declines, the courses become worthless. So how can a career training course be a smart long term investment, instead of just a temporary (and often ineffective) fix?

Instead of seeking out job retraining, which focuses on acquiring the skills for a certain kind of job, the key is to focus on training courses that will prepare you for a ­complete career – multiple jobs in a given field. How can you ensure that your training courses are preparing your for a full career instead of just a single job? Follow these three steps for finding the right career training courses, before you even step into a classroom:

When you're unemployed, it's tempting to jump at the first job opportunity that comes along. But if you aren't careful, you can wind up in a job you hate, increasing the likelihood that you'll quit or get fired after just a few months. If you develop some self-awareness before you begin your job search, it will dramatically increase both your short and your long term prospects of career success.

Trying to predict the future of the job market is always dicey, especially in a turbulent economy. But there is plenty of information about which fields are growing and which are on the decline. With some insight into the current job market and national employment activity, you can pick a training course for a career that not only interests you, but that offers a high likelihood of job security for the long run.

If chosen right, a career training course can offer you state-of-the-art skills in a field with multiple job applications and good employment prospects. But to ensure career stability in the coming years, you'll need to do more than just upgrade your skill set. You'll need to become adept at managing your career, and less reliant on superiors for your success. This way, you'll know how to steer around obstacles that and what to do (and when and where to do it) to keep your career moving forward.

  1. Find a field in which you would enjoy working, and have the talent to succeed
  2. Know which careers have the best outlook and most employment activity
  3. Become an expert at the management of your career

It would be nice if one could say that a single six week career training course is all it takes to get reemployed in this lousy economy. But that's just not true. Today's workplace is very different than what it was even a couple of years ago. And as the nature of work has evolved, so must the career training courses designed to help you find success.

Formerly the Chairman and CEO of Job Bank USA, Peter Weddle is an HR consultant, recruiter, author and commentator with an international reputation. He has authored or edited more than two dozen books, including "Recognizing Richard Rabbit: A Fable About Being True to Yourself", "Work Strong: Your Personal Career Fitness System" and "WEDDLE's 2009/10 Guide to Employment Sites on the Internet". In addition, he oversees WEDDLE's, a print publisher specializing in the field of human resources. WEDDLE's annual Guides and Directory to job boards are recognized for their accuracy and helpfulness, leading the American Staffing Association to call Weddle the "Zagat of the online employment industry." Peter Weddle is also CEO of the International Association of Employment Websites.

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