Back To School

Is it Still Worth Your While?

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By Jerry Lambert

Hi!  Welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club!  If you are a regular reader of this blog I hope you enjoyed last week’s article: Have You Ever Thought About Becoming an Entrepreneur?  As usual, I always learn a lot when I write one of these articles.  If you read it, I hope it sparked some ideas.

Smiling Caucasian profession in formal robe

This week I thought I would discuss a subject just about everyone thinks of after they are laid off from their job.  Should I go back to school?  It’s a very important question, and one you should give a lot of thought to.

Since summer vacation has begun, I immediately think about all of those noisy kids going back to school in September.  My thoughts also drift to cooler temperatures and FOOTBALL!

When I was a kid, I always loved going back to school.  Seeing all my friends, new school supplies, and textbooks that have never been cracked open!  This feeling would usually go away by October, but those first few weeks were always magical for me.  Then reality would set in, and I would start counting down the days until Christmas Vacation!!

I’m lucky enough to live near the community college I attended back in the late 70s and early 80s.  Recently, I have gone back there to use the library from time to time.  I go there to write some of these articles and work on other projects as well.  Even though I’m not currently a student, I really like the feeling of being on campus.  It puts me in the correct mindset to learn new things, such as WordPress.  I learned a lot about building this website at that library!

IS09AJ7SCThis brings me back to the subject of this article.  Should you consider going back to school?  For some people the answer is definitely YES.  If you were working on your degree and got sidetracked by life, and are only a few credit hours short of your degree, you should definitely consider finishing up.  A degree is an excellent addition to your résumé, and shows prospective employers you know how to finish what you started.  Even if it took 20 years!

Many Brown Parachuters see going back to school as a great way to “Reinvent” themselves.  If you had a Minor you were working on in college, and it still interests you, now might be the time to go for it!  After all, it might reboot your career and land you a job that will help get to your retirement years.  You never know.

However, if you read my article College vs Vocational Education, I don’t have to tell you that college costs have risen at twice the rate of healthcare!  Given that information, how in the heck are you going to finish up your degree?  That is an excellent question!

is09ao1ykThere is a terrific article on the website Love To Know.  It tells you all about grant money that is available for senior citizens.  Bad news, though.  I hate to be the one to break it to you.  If you are over 55, you are a senior citizen!  Anyway, it this case, being an old fart works in your favor.  There are 11 states that waive tuition costs for seniors altogether!  Wow!

I remember when I was in school, there was one older lady who was in one of my classes.  She was ancient!  She must have been at least 35!!!  We all thought she was ready for the Old Folks Home.  Ah, to be young and stupid again.  Nowadays, there are people of all ages attending your local community college and universities.  Although the student body is still primarily young farts.

In addition to finishing up your degree, there are many people who attend class for the sheer joy of learning.  I call them Hermione Grangers.  In the article on Love To Know, they mention that some colleges will allow seniors to audit a class for free, or at a heavily discounted rate.  So, if you’ve always wanted to take that class in Advanced Basket Weaving, here’s your chance!

Artist standing by artwork in studio portrait

If heading back to campus isn’t for you, you may still be in luck.  There is a relatively new website called The Great Courses.  This website offers dirt cheap online classes that are being taught by experts in their fields.  Math, Science, History, Fine Arts, Literature, etc.  These are not courses for casual learners.  They are aimed at serious people who want to learn more about a given subject and are willing to work hard.

For those of you who are looking to brush up on your skills without going back to college, or signing up for one of The Great Courses, there is always GCF Learn Free.  I did an article on this tremendous website a while ago.  While it is not on par with “Great Courses”, it does a great job of covering the material it does offer.  Some of it in great detail.  Definitely worth checking out, if you just want to brush up on your Microsoft Excel, or anything of the other courses that are listed.

Well, that’s it.  Hopefully, if you chose to head back to school, this article has brought you up to speed on some of the options that are available to you.  Just don’t get offended if the kids don’t want to talk to you.  They don’t talk to each other either, unless it’s by texting, Facebook, or Twitter!

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends.  Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner.  Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

Disclaimer: Advertisements that appear on this website are posted by WordPress and not by the author of this website.

College vs Vocational Education

Does College Really Rule?

By Jerry Lambert

Hello, and welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club.  This week I wanted to share an article I wrote for a blogging service.  The article wasn’t picked up, so it’s their loss.  The article talks about the College versus Vocational forms of higher learning.  While the focus of this article is more for our children and grandchildren, it’s something you may want to share with them.  Especially if they are feeling like a square peg being crammed into a round hole.

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Photo Credit: MikeRowe.com

Mike Rowe, from the famous show, “Dirty Jobs” was recently on Fox News.  He was talking with Tucker Carlson about a letter he had written to President Obama.  A letter that he has now also forwarded to President Trump.

In this letter, he stated that the lack of Vocational Education in high schools has created a huge skills gap. The gap is between College-Educated students and the students who SHOULD be in Vocational / Technical Education.  There are over 5.6 Million Jobs that need to be filled, 75% of which do not require a 4 year degree.

Vocational / Technical Education is a field of study that prepares a student directly for the career he or she wants.  Think about cooking school, beautician school, truck driving school, heating and cooling school, etc.  Not to mention all of the plumbing, electrician, and carpenter apprenticeships.  You get the idea.  These training programs prepare the student for their new career immediately, and generally cost thousands of dollars less than heading to college.  Vocational Education has been removed from many high schools, resulting in this huge skills gap.

Boy dressed as repair manDo many of these jobs require a 4 year degree?  No.  Do you have to rack up over $100,000 in student loans in order to get these jobs?  No.  Are these glamorous jobs the average college kid would dream of having?  No.  However, are these jobs that need to be done in order for America to remain a vital, growing nation?  Absolutely, Yes!

Have many students have been sold a bill of goods when it comes to getting a college education?  It would certainly appear so.  It doesn’t take an Einstein to realize the soaring cost of a college education is not keeping pace with reality.  Drive by any college campus and you’ll see at least one new building under construction.  While many times, the dormitory conditions for students are outdated, cramped, and deplorable.

New Football Stadiums and Basketball Arenas that cost millions of dollars are being built to attract the nations’ top prospects.  This brings in thousands of dollars in TV revenue.  However, outside of a boost in school spirit, these facilities do very little for the average student.

is09an5qdThe amount of money pouring into our Universities borders on the insane.  An article that appeared in The Huffington Post reported that since they started keeping track in 1978, the costs for Tuition and Fees have risen 1,120%.  Ironically, the costs for Medical Expenses have risen only about half as much during the same time period, 601%!  Forget about Obamacare or Trumpcare, how about Collegecare?

What does the average student get for all those thousands of dollars spent on his or her education?  A piece of parchment? With no hope of paying off the mountain of debt piled up in pursuit of that elusive degree?

Over the years, manual labor or skilled trades’ jobs have been looked down upon by the college-elite and business professionals.  Plumbers, Electricians, Carpenters, Carpet Cleaners, Janitorial Staff, and other jobs are looked down upon by most business professionals.  “Hey, we’re doing the real work!”  That is the attitude pervasive in business today.

Industrial worker in plantAll of this belittling of good, honest work has caused many of today’s youth to shy away from these decent paying jobs.  Plumbers, Electricians, Carpenters, and Construction workers can earn a very good living!  These jobs might not be very sexy, but they need to be done, just the same.  Many of these jobs don’t have a corporate ladder to climb, but they can provide a comfortable living, for someone who is willing to do the work.

Mike Rowe’s show on The Discovery Channel is called “Dirty Jobs”.  It is an extreme example of some jobs that are on the far edge of the ick scale.  These jobs need to be filled, but employers are having a hard time hiring people to do them.

Somewhere along the line, hard work has only become acceptable only if it is taking place in an office building, a hospital, or a court house.  Rowe has a great quote about President Obama’s “Shovel Ready” jobs.  “I pointed out that President Obama’s promise of 3 million shovel ready jobs sounded great, but I worried that filling those jobs would be challenging – especially in a country where fewer and fewer people aspired to pick up a shovel.”  Rowe’s recent five minute testimony to Congress (before he was cut off) can be read by following this link.

DictionaryWhat this all comes down to is that High School Counselors and Parents need to realize that not every kid with decent grades is cut out for college.  Somewhere along the line, college has become the only “acceptable path”.  When offered “Higher Education” versus “Alternative Education”, which system do you think most parents want their precious little snowflakes enrolled in?

Clearly, not everyone is cut out for college.  Just like not everyone is cut out to be an electrician.  So let’s stop trying to cram square pegs into round holes and get back to giving each student an honest evaluation of his or her abilities.  Otherwise, we’ll continue to have ridiculously expensive Universities.  That, along with a national infrastructure that will continually need repair, because there is nobody to do the work!

As Rowe closed the segment with Carlson, he signed off with, “If you want to make America great again, you’ll need to make work cool again!”  Sounds like a t-shirt slogan to me!  I’m sure he can find a bunch of out-of-work college students to crank them out for him.

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends.  Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner.  Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

Disclaimer: Advertisements that appear on this website are posted by WordPress and not by the author of this website.

Automation

The Robot Revolution is Coming!

By Jerry Lambert

Hello, and welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club.  I hope you enjoyed last week’s article on Networking.  I did go to the Networking Event I referenced in the article and had a good time meeting folks and swapping business / networking cards.  There were quite a few folks in our age group, so that was inspiring I guess.  If they’re in the same boat we are, they’re all unemployed and trying to put a good face on things.

But I digress.  I have decided that this week’s article is going to be about Automation.  For many people (unions, lawyers, and politicians), it is the REAL Elephant in the Room!  After every economic downturn, the politicians all claim “We’ll bring those jobs back!”  What if there are no jobs to bring back?  I’m reminded of that song by Bruce Springsteen, My Hometown.

Now Main Street’s whitewashed windows and vacant stores
Seems like there ain’t nobody wants to come down here no more
They’re closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks
Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain’t coming back

Retro robots, artworkThat last line is what ran through my head as I was thinking about this article.  Jobs are going and they’re not coming back.  No matter what any politician says.  The Age of Automation and the Rise of the Robots is upon us and we’d better wake up to that fact.

From 1760 – 1840, the Industrial Revolution destroyed jobs. But it also helped to create many as well.  Hopefully, the upcoming Terminator Invasion will leave more behind than the corpses of jobs formerly done by humans.  Hopefully, those corpses will be reborn as new jobs, done by humans!  By using Science Fiction as our guide, it certainly doesn’t paint a rosy future for us humans.  We may be turned into batteries, as shown in The Matrix, or like in The Terminator, we might be hunted mercilessly, as SkyNet becomes “Self-Aware”!  Just kidding, or am I?

An article from the PBS NewsHour website states that by 2025, roughly 1/3 of the jobs in this country will be replaced by “Smart Robots”.  This isn’t only factory and manufacturing jobs.  That’s been going on for years.  These “Smart Robots” will take over office, medical, legal, and financial analysis jobs as well.  Wonderful.  Good thing I got that Accounting Degree.

However, all may not be lost in our battle with the Titans!  On the website Marketplace.org, they have a list of Robot-Proof Jobs.  Jobs they feel won’t be replaced by C3PO.  They found out that there are actually only a small percentage of jobs that are “100% Automatable”.  They also include a list of “0% Automatable” jobs.  Some of these are: Dancers, Clergy, Sports Athletes, and Working with Animals.  I guess they figure Fluffy and Rover might be spooked by a robot.

IS09AK2A6Greg Gutfeld from Fox News is always talking about the “Robot Apocalypse”.  A lot of it is tongue-in-cheek, but he brings up some good points.  Mostly, he feels that people are not taking the threat to the job market seriously.

Then there are the bizarre legal issues popping up around all of these “Robot Workers”.  Lawyers are claiming these “workers” must have their “rights” protected.  Unions are saying that they’re okay with robots, as long as there is a human worker “supervising”.  Really?  The unions are terrified their rank and file may be replaced by an army of robot workers.  An army with no political agenda or the ability (or reason to) pay dues!

Yep, it’s going to be a “Brave New World”.  But the big question is, where do we fit in?  If robots have taken all our jobs, what do we do?  Movies always create a Utopian view, like in I, Robot.  Naturally, it all hits the fan, and Will Smith has to save the day.  But what if it doesn’t hit the fan?  What if robots manage to take over all of the menial, manufacturing, and some not-so-menial jobs?  What do we do with all our free time and more importantly, how do we make money?  That’s the BIG QUESTION!

Like the Industrial Revolution, it could be that all of this technology is bringing us bigger and better things.  However, if we lose the ability to work in this new world, what happens then?  Unemployment rates of 80-90-100%?  A world-wide Depression that never ends?  At least we’ll all have plenty of company in the unemployment line.

Robotic hand, artworkThe challenge becomes, “How do I prepare for, and thrive in the new robotic future?”  With almost total unemployment, how are WE supposed to survive?  The obsolete workers that have already been tossed into the scrap heap.

According to an article in Business Insider, there are jobs that will survive the Robot Revolution.  Of course, that article could be way off.  We have no way of knowing.  I guess from my standpoint, I’m just looking for a job that will bring in money this week, this month, and hopefully, this year.  When I was driving for Uber and Lyft, I saw the handwriting on the wall when it came to self-driving cars.  I knew I would only be driving for a few years before I was replaced by a robot.  Much earlier than most workers.

I’m sorry to paint such a gloomy picture, but I wanted you to be aware of what’s coming.  It’s not just Age Discrimination we’re fighting, but possibly robots that look like Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Be on the lookout!

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends.  Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner.  Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

Disclaimer: Advertisements that appear on this website are posted by WordPress and not by the author of this website.

GCF Learn Free

One of the Most Indispensable Websites You’ll Ever Use!

By Jerry Lambert

Hello, and welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club.  I hope you found my last article about the difference between an Hourly Employee vs Independent Contractor informative.  This week, I want to tell you about another website I discovered many years ago, GCF Learn Free.

A businessman holding a hammerAt the time I made this discovery, I had just been sentenced to serve out the remaining years of my old job on the Tech Support Desk.  I was looking for online tutorials for Microsoft Office since many of the training materials provided by the company were incomprehensible to me.

I stumbled across this website looking for a Microsoft Excel tutorial and I was amazed to find not only that but a large catalog of online courses for everything from Using an ATM to advanced courses in Microsoft Access, the database application in Microsoft Office.

I would eventually describe this website to friends and colleagues as, “The one place to go to if you had just been left behind on Earth!”  Or, for you fans of Douglas Adams, a REALHitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”.  I’m sure E.T. would have gotten a lot of use out of it when he came to visit Elliot.

Close up of woman circling adsHowever, for the purpose of this article, I’ll only go over the job hunting and career-related aspects of the website.  I’ll leave it to you to explore the rest of what GCF Learn Free has to offer.  Trust me, you can get lost in there for days, in a good way.

The Work and Career section of the website is broken down into four categories.  Career Planning, Job Search, Workplace Skills and Money.  Many of these lessons can be used before and AFTER, you get the job.  Just in case you fudged a little on your résumé and said you know a lot more about QuickBooks than might necessarily be true.  There’s a QuickBooks Resources section for that.  And much, much more.

Career Planning

This section is broken down into two categories.  Career Planning and Salary and Job Search and Networking.  Since most visitors to TBPC fall into the “Unemployed” classification, I’m sure you’ll get more use out of the second category.  However, both offer useful lessons that will get you up to speed on the latest and greatest job hunting tools.

Career Planning and Salary is broken down into five different courses, plus a quiz at the end of each lesson.  This section can be very useful if you are looking to reboot your career and try something new.

Discover Your Career Needs:  This section helps get you pointed on  a new career path with a list of Self-Assessment tools.  It also helps you figure out how much money you need to get paid, and how to gain additional job skills that will help get you there.

Explore Careers:  Now that you’ve determined your career interest, this section will help you find a position that aligns with that interest.  It uses a man named Sameer as a case study on how to find a new career.

Salary Basics:  This section explains how to determine if a position you have applied for will actually help you meet your financial needs, or if you should keep looking.

Gain Job Skills:  This part illustrates how you’re going to get the skills needed to land the job you really want.  It covers going back to school for a two or four-year degree, but that might not be an option if you’re struggling just to put food on the table.  However, there are many eLearning options (like GCF Learn Free) that will help you to gain the necessary skills to land that job!  Best of all, like GCF Learn Free, many of these sites are FREE!

Make a Career Plan:  Now that you have figured out what you want to do, how much money you need to make, and gained the skills necessary to do the job, all you need is a plan.  That’s what this section is about.  It helps you to create a blueprint of the tasks you will have to achieve in order to reach your Career Goals.

Job Search and Networking.  You have built the necessary skills for your new job and developed a plan to get that job.  Now it’s time to put that plan into action.  The age of combing the want ads in your local paper are over.  It’s a digital world and it’s time to get with the program.

Job Search Savvy:  This section helps you get your “job hunting race horse” into the starting gate for the (hopefully short) race to the finish line.  It helps put you in the right frame of mind for getting that new job.

Find a Job Online:  Finding the right job is what this section is all about.  It walks you through searching for and applying for a job online.  However, keep in mind what I said in my article about Age Discrimination.  Many times online applications will get kicked out by a database scanner long before ever being seen by human eyes.  That’s why the next topic is so important.

Networking Basics:  In this day and age, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.  Well, it’s what you know, too.  You can’t apply for a job as a Neurosurgeon just because you stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.  However, nowadays, getting connected with your peers is crucial.  Check out my article on LinkedIn for more info about that.

Job Hunt with Social Media:  This area walks you through the basics of how to navigate all of the various Social Media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and others.  It shows you how to use these sites to let your friends and followers know you are looking for work.  Oddly, it doesn’t really mention LinkedIn, which I would think would be stop number one for someone wanting to put themselves out there.

Personal Branding 101:  This is the process of getting people to identify you with a certain job or industry.  I have to admit that I don’t know a great deal about personal branding, even though apparently I have been doing lots of it.  Updating my LinkedIn Profile (oops, spoke too soon), getting networking cards printed up, attending networking events, and starting a blog like this one, can really increase your visibility.

Well, that’s it for the Career Planning and Salary / Job Search and Networking parts of the Career Planning section.  Wait!  You say.  What about Job Search, Workplace Skills, and Money?  I know I have only shown you the tip of the iceberg with the Career Planning section.  I’ll leave it up to you to check out the rest on your own.  I told you it was a goldmine!  So, as you begin your new career search in earnest, just remember what the Hitchhiker’s Guide has printed on the front cover in large, friendly letters. “DON’T PANIC”.  You have GCF Learn Free (and me) to show you the way!

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends.  Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner.  Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

Disclaimer: Advertisements that appear on this website are posted by WordPress and not by the author of this website.