Voices

Tough economy drives training programs on computer, job skills

Bobbi Worley is unemployed after 40 years as a bookkeeper and is taking classes to upgrade her skills to get back into the work force. (Jesse Tinsley)
Bobbi Worley is unemployed after 40 years as a bookkeeper and is taking classes to upgrade her skills to get back into the work force. (Jesse Tinsley)

When Bobbi Worley became unemployed in August, she figured she’d find a new job rather quickly. After all, she’d worked as a bookkeeper for 40 years in a handful of different industries, and she’d never been unemployed for long.

“Bookkeepers will always be needed,” Worley said.

Yet it turned out that finding a new job has been everything but easy.

Somewhat frustrated by her search, Worley hooked up with WorkSource Spokane. She also signed up with every temp and professional placement agency in town she could think of.

Still, she’s had no luck finding a job.

“I update my résumé all the time. You are always trying to make it look better so you’ll catch someone’s eye,” said Worley, adding that WorkSource has been extremely helpful. “I’m out there, I’m getting some interviews, it’s rolling slowly – but what’s keeping me from getting the jobs, I simply don’t know.”

At 60 years old, the Ferris High School graduate began to wonder if she simply needed more education.

A WorkSource counselor recommended she look into Community Colleges of Spokane’s Institute for Extended Learning and the Career Transitions classes available there.

These classes are aimed at people like Worley who have lost jobs after long careers, or people who are facing personal or professional transitions such as unemployment, divorce or widowhood.

“I love going to school. Give me the chance and I’m there,” Worley said.

She has just finished a class in Quick Books – a computer bookkeeping program – to update her work skills.

“I’ve used Quick Books but I didn’t have any formal training in it, so I figured that was a good place to start,” Worley said. “It’s not a real big change, but it’s a résumé enhancer.”

Like many others who are laid off after a long career, Worley feels like a fish out of water. Too young to retire – she takes care of her mother, who lives with her – and too old to start over from scratch, job-seekers like Worley say they struggle in the new economy.

“For more-mature workers, what happened to her happens a lot,” said Denise McKinnon, program coordinator for Career Transitions. “It’s too bad. More-mature workers have a lot of expertise that’s being lost when they lose their jobs. Often it’s expertise that could be used just as well in other careers.”

Classes are $300 a piece, but McKinnon said 90 percent of students can be funded by financial aid or other sources.

“Don’t stay away because you don’t have $300 – we can help you,” said McKinnon, adding that Career Transitions is a great launching point for people who have gotten laid off later in life or who have been out of the job market for a while.

Worley sometimes feels like her strong employment history gets in the way of her landing a new job.

“My age group was taught to find a job and stay there,” said Worley. “Now it’s almost the other way around. They look at you funny if you don’t move from job to job every four or five years.”

Worley was with her last employer for six years.

Last time she looked for work was after she returned to Spokane in November 2004.

“It just wasn’t as hard back then,” Worley said. “I got a temp job and they hired me full time.”

Worley’s story doesn’t have a happy ending – yet. She continues to look at job listing websites every day, and she’s contemplating taking the English class at IEL.

“I apply for a lot of receptionist jobs, and I’m sure my writing could use a little help,” said Worley. “I tend to be too short and to the point. I’m a numbers person after all.”

McKinnon said Worley is doing all the right things in a tough job market.

“We are not saying ‘Come to our program and you’ll magically have a job,’ ” said McKinnon. “But don’t give up. We can help you get better skills, and we can help you get more focused in your job search.”



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