What You Need To Know Before Committing To Vocational Retraining

You've thought a lot about the kind of work you want to do. The duties, the pay, the hours, the environment ? everything sounds right. According to the newspaper ads, there is a big demand out there. You find a program that sounds really good. You are all ready to sign on the dotted line.

Stop! Before you invest your time, your energy, and a good chunk of your money in this direction, ask some tough questions.

1. Request that the school provide you with placement statistics ? these are required by the state for all approved vocational courses. Statistics can be misleading so ask for details ? what kind of job did the graduates find, how much did it pay, how long did it take them to find it?

2. Ask for the names and telephone numbers of 6 recent graduates you can contact for feedback. Good schools often have recent graduates visiting on site to share their experiences with current students. If the school refuses to provide such a list, or cannot provide it for whatever reason they give you, red flags should be immediately raised.

3. Is State Licensure or Certification required for this field? If so, what is the school's passing rate? What is the examination's pass rate overall? How do they compare?

4. Arrange to audit one or two classes. Evaluate the instructor and the program organization. Talk to the other students about their experience.

5. Visit the placement office and find out what services and support are offered. At a minimum, you should receive a professional resume and multiple job leads. An excellent school will also provide interviewing skill training and employer background information. Find out if the school works consistently with several local employers which indicates that their graduates have been positive hires in the past.

6. Sit down with the Sunday Classifieds and circle employers in the field. Then call them for information. Are new graduates considered or is actual work experience required? Is the school known in the business community and what kind of reputation does it have? Has this company ever hired a graduate of this school? How would the employer recommend that someone enter this field?

If the school comes through with flying colors, move ahead with the knowledge that obtaining a first job after training is always difficult but you have some sources of support.

If your questions have revealed weaknesses in the program, evaluate other schools or consider selecting a different career goal.

Virginia Bola operated a rehabilitation company for 20 years, developing innovative job search techniques for disabled workers, while serving as a respected Vocational Expert in Administrative, Civil and Workers' Compensation Courts. Author of an interactive and emotionally supportive workbook, The Wolf at the Door: An Unemployment Survival Manual, and a monthly ezine, The Worker's Edge, she can be reached at http://www.virginiabola.com

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