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Money Tips for the Working Poor: Exploring All Options in Unemployment (Part 2 of 3)

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"General Motors Co. next month will lay off 104 workers at its Flint Engine Plant as the company sends engine work for the Buick Encore to Korea." Detroit News, March 7, 2013

This may just seem like a headline in a newspaper to you, but imagine if you were one of those 104 people living in Flint, Michigan who happened to be reading the Detroit News that morning and knew your job was about to be outsourced? What thoughts would run through your head?

"How will we be able to afford this mortgage?"

"Are we going to have to move my wife and kids into my parents' home?"

"Is this layoff permanent or temporary?"

"My skills aren't of use any place else other than here in Flint... what the hell am I supposed to do... move?!"

This is a very real scenario for not just those living in Flint, Michigan, but in cities all across America people have had to face this new reality... a reality of a shrinking labor force. As in all recessions, low skilled manufacturing jobs begin to shrink in demand faster than any others as they are outsourced to other countries and/or diminished by technological advancement. I understand the patriotic sentiment to hire domestic workers, but when that patriotism comes at a 300 percent premium to labor which can be purchased overseas, the reality is many employers will choose to not be patriotic.

So as the demand for low skilled manufacturing jobs decreases, and the demand for high skilled jobs increases, what should an employee such as one of the 104 laid off in the Flint, Michigan plan to do? These workers who only possess the skills to work on an assembly line or perhaps have a skilled trade that is specific to manufacturing engines, just like workers laid off across the country, have only three choices they can pursue and those choices are the following:

1. Move - Find another area where their skills are in demand.
2. Pursue Education - Get additional education to acquire more skills that match those skills locally that are in demand.
3. Become an Entrepreneur - Start your own business to use the skills you have acquired to service the needs of your community.

Solution #2 - Pursue Education

The skills you currently possess may have been outsourced and are in less demand where you currently live; however, that doesn't mean you can't get new skills. Education is the most effective way to increase your marketability and demand in the workforce. However, education doesn't only cost money, but it also requires an investment of time which for many seems to be a rare commodity. So here are a few tips to consider as you think about enhancing your skills with additional education:

1. Find the Money

a. Scholarships - Scholarships aren't just for young students but adults are eligible for them as well. Be sure to check out websites like www.collegeNET.com and www.FastWeb.com.

b. Community Colleges or Trade Schools - Many community colleges or trade schools have great academic and trades programs for those looking to enhance their educational background. I have talked to many adults who swore they would not be able to afford the education at a community college. However, after a discussion with an admissions counselor/financial aid counselor they discovered they were able to qualify for enough financial aid to attend the college with little or no money out of their own pocket. Most community colleges have staff on hand that will more than gladly help guide you through the process of enrolling into their school. Upon enrollment you will be exposed to a huge network of well-connected professors, an administration with career resources and guidance, and other likeminded students. All this for a very minimal cost and for free if you are income eligible. Sites like www.trade-schools.net can also assist you with a search for a good trade school in your area.

2. Prepare Yourself for School - Sure, you can think of many ways and reasons (otherwise known as excuses) that make you feel it is impossible to pursue additional education, but I urge you to find the time to create that 25th hour in the day. Here are a few suggestions:

a. Manage your time effectively: Choose times of the day to set aside where you can get the most effective studying accomplished (perhaps early in the morning before the kids wake up or after you put them to bed). Be sure to stick to those times and as best as you can avoid all distraction.

b. Manage your test anxiety: If you haven't taken a test in some time it is perfectly normal to be nervous. Here are some ideas for those who are out of practice of taking tests:

  • Prepare yourself for the test as best as possible.
  • Dress comfortably for the exam if possible.
  • Try to get to the test a few minutes early so you can have time to gather your thoughts and relax.
  • Read the instructions carefully.
  • If you don't know an answer, skip it and proceed to the ones you do know...come back to the ones you had to skip later.
  • Take a deep breath and have confidence in your effort. If you tried your best there is nothing to worry about.
  • Get a good night's rest.

c. Develop a Support System: Going to back to school can be difficult, but can be a lot easier if you surround yourself with people who can support your efforts.

  • Join study groups with your classmates.
  • Visit your school's Career Placement Department and become familiar with the staff that help students find employment.
  • Ask your school's Counseling Department if they have special help for non-traditional students.