Displaced workers get another chance by going back to school - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Displaced workers get another chance by going back to school


 By Anna Carrera - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

WISCONSIN RAPIDS (WAOW) -- Job hunting can be discouraging and instead, many laid-off workers decide to look for a change of pace. Some head back to school to help them get started with their new lives.

It's not easy, but it can be done. And even though some programs, like nursing, can have long waiting lists, other ones can help people get into new jobs within a few years.

Nearly three years ago, Steven Bryant's life turned upside down.

"The lead thought was, what am I going to do now?" said Bryant.

He found out the plant he had been working at in Neilsville would be shutting down.

"I need to find another job or something to support myself," said Bryant.

He looked for a new path to take him away from the unemployment lines.

"Company sent the plant to Mexico and we had the opportunity to go to school," said Bryant. "So we did."

Looking back, Bryant said maybe it was a blessing in disguise.

"It gives me the chance to go full time," said Bryant. "Whether that's good or bad, I don't know."

And now, many more will soon have the opportunity to head back to class after finalizing layoffs in the nearby Whiting paper mill.

"It's an unfortunate situation that they're re-careering but they oftentimes say you know what, I'm interested in trying something different," said Connie Willfahrt, Vice President of Student Affairs at Mid-State's Wisconsin Rapids campus.

Willfahrt said hundreds of dislocated workers have passed through more than 40 different programs at their campus. She said sometimes dislocated workers feel anxious about being the "old one" in class.

"Our ages range across the board so they certainly are pleasantly surprised about that," said Willfahrt.

But worry soon turns to optimism.

"Once they get here and have that experience they're grateful that they can re-career," said Willfahrt.

"If you get the opportunity to go to school, do it," said Bryant. "Find something that you're interested in and go for it."

And with renewed hope, the future looks a little sweeter.

"Make the best of what you got," said Bryant. "If life hands you lemons, make lemonade."

Bryant hopes to work with renewable energy in his next career. And he's well on his way. He said he took 18 credits last semester and got straight A's.

Online Reporter: Anna Carrera

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