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Programs for Classroom and Online Learning

Unemployment offers an opportunity to learn a new skill or improve existing ones through online and classroom learning. There are a number of free and low-cost resources available nationwide serving individuals at all skill levels.

In this section:

  • Government programs
  • Non-Profit, Non-Sectarian Organizations
  • Temporary Agencies
  • Industry-Specific Groups

…plus, our special look at how Associations, Volunteering and Continuing Education (through community college and online universities) can boost your career opportunities!

Government programs:
Run by the Department of Labor, CareerOneStop nationwide focuses on job searching (such as assistance with applying for unemployment, resume writing, and access to phones, faxes, and computers) as well as giving access to on-site and online skills development workshops and training programs, most of which are free. To find the location nearest you, visit or call 1-877-872-5627.

Career Voyages is a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Education, designed to provide information on high growth, in-demand occupations along with the skills and education needed to attain those jobs. There’s access to apprenticeship and certificate programs in the areas that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics determines are high-growth positions for both blue and white collar workers.

Non-Profit, Non-Sectarian Organizations:
Jewish Vocational Service founded during the Great Depression to assist immigrants with job training and placement, now operates more than 20 agencies throughout the country serving nearly a half a million people with a wide range of career-related services. More than 25,000 jobseekers were placed in jobs last year as a result of the training they received from JVS. And JVS works with 40,000 employers of all sizes nationwide. JVS satellite agencies get to know the business needs in their unique areas and customize training programs to meet the demands in a variety of industries:

For example, the New Jersey agency ( created a “Caregiving Companions” program, which provides customized training to potential candidates, then places successful graduates as caregivers in the homes of the frail elderly and people with disabilities. JVS says it’s not able to find enough workers to meet the demand for this service, which is projected to grow as the boomer population ages.

JVS in New Jersey also created a program to provide skills training to unemployed individuals seeking to become bus drivers in partnership with Coach USA. JVS says that Coach guarantees employment for candidates who successfully pass the pre-CDL (commercial driver’s license) training program, which prepares candidates to pass the written CDL test, and the subsequent road CDL training that Coach provides.

Goodwill offers similar skills training and placement services. This non-profit group cliams to place a jobseeker in a good job every 53 seconds of every business day. There are 161 Goodwill community-based locations in the US that offer job training programs in a variety of industries including health care, hospitality, banking, information technology, computer programming and more.

Goodwill also creates jobs by contracting with businesses and government to provide a wide range of commercial services, including janitorial work, packaging and assembly, and food service preparation. For example, Goodwill of Greater Washington has a custodial contract business that cleans almost 8 million square feet of government and commercial office space every day, as well as provides pest control, landscaping and mailroom services. Some of the training can be done in as little as a few weeks – some training can take up to a few months. To find the location nearest you, visit or call 1-800-664-6577 and dial your zip code.

Goodwill Industries of East North Carolina:

The National Urban League has more than 100 chapters across the U.S, most of which offer resources, training and job/skill development at no charge. To find the location nearest you, visit

Temporary Agencies:
When you register with temporary or permanent placement agencies, many of them offer access to a comprehensive library of free tutorials designed to help improve the skill level of their candidates. If you’re working now with a temp agency, headhunter or outplacement firm, ask if they offer access to online training programs.

For example, a retired accountant who is looking to get back to work, can sign up with Robert Half – which specializes in placing accounting and finance professionals – and have access to 8,000 online tutorials which cover everything from technical accounting skills to leadership and public speaking. (

Another example, the Kelly Learning Center, operated by Kelly Services, offers both professional and personal development courses. More than 500 courses are offered free to Kelly candidates. (

Other free online tutorials for basic skills:

Industry-Specific Groups:

Many trade organizations offer training programs to improve skill level within their fields and to attract new workers.

One example is packaging, which is the nation’s third largest industry. The Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute PMMI ( recognizes the importance of workforce development and training in today’s high tech packaging industry. As packaging machinery becomes increasingly complex and automation expands, upgrading the skills of packaging workers as well as developing new talent prepared to design, maintain and run these complex packaging systems is critical. PMMI U ( offers practical, useful educational experiences based on real needs, helping individuals and companies take on real challenges. PMMI U helps members of the packaging workforce build personal connections and a sense of community that will serve their needs well beyond the dates of the course or program.

Check with the leading trade organizations in your current or desired field to learn about training opportunities.

Associations, Volunteering and Continuing Education

Professional Associations

Industry organizations and networking groups are the untapped goldmine of the job search universe. These organizations exist to help people meet and do business with other professionals and students in their industry—the perfect venue for finding a job opportunity. Associations run the gamut from intimate dinner clubs to massive international membership organizations. Every industry has at least one association, and most industries have several, many of which include chapters designed specifically for women. Some associations, particularly in popular fields like accounting and marketing, even have collegiate chapters.

Large, multi-industry women’s professional and networking organizations include the National Association for Female Executives (NAFE), Business & Professional Women (BPW), and the American Association of University Women (AAUW). Female-focused industry groups include fields ranging from Professional Women in Construction to Women in Film and Television. For the largest directory of women’s organizations around the world, contact the Business Women’s Network, a Washington, DC-based organization.

The secret about most associations—particularly those focused on women—is that they need members as much as you need a job. Most associations rely on membership dues and mailing lists to survive, so they are thrilled to talk to potential new members like you. So don’t be shy about cold calling your industry association or a professional women’s networking group—membership directors will be more than happy to discuss the benefits of joining and answer your specific questions. Why not ask for the names of a few members to speak with about the association? This is a great way to meet active, involved professionals in your field. By mentioning that you received their name from their association, they’re sure to take your call.

Volunteer Opportunities

This is a great tip for recent college grads or career switchers looking to break into a new field. Call the local chapter of the industry’s association and offer yourself as a volunteer. Many associations are non-profit organizations run by people with full-time jobs, so they are thrilled to get any assistance, particularly from a motivated job seeker. Consider volunteering for a task that will help build your experience (for instance, writing an article for their newsletter, balancing the books, organizing the catering for an event, or designing a new feature of their website), then put this on your résumé as experience in your field. Or, as mentioned earlier, if you can’t score a professional task, volunteer for a position in which you’ll meet the most association members—(for instance, manage the database, work the registration table at an event, or make fund-raising phone calls. Remember, it’s perfectly acceptable — encouraged, in fact to list volunteer work on your résumé, and non-profit managers can serve as great professional and personal references.

Adult/Continuing Education

We know what you’re thinking: “I already went to college! What more do I need?” But adult education offers so much more than information. Even a one-day seminar or a series of night courses can provide the extra skills or certification you desire. Most continuing education classes are designed to accommodate the schedules of busy professionals so they are flexible in their offerings.

Adult and continuing education classes offer many benefits to the savvy job seeker:

  • Résumé Boost — Particularly for career changers or rising executives, education demonstrates to an employer that you are motivated, eager to stay on the cutting edge of your industry and willing to put in the work to achieve your highest potential. Whether you are in the midst of a course or have already completed one, additional education is always impressive and particular certifications may boost your chances (and your eventual salary range).
  • Industry contacts — Adult education courses are taught by industry experts and attended by industry insiders. Make a point to learn about new industry trends, networking opportunities, and job leads by chatting with the other people in your classroom.
  • Leadership opportunities — Instead of taking a course, why not teach one? One of our favorite public relations pros got a job at NBC after volunteering to teach a class at her local university — when she was only 21 years old. For adult education classes, you don’t need a PhD or dozens of years of industry experience — just some solid work experience, a great syllabus, and lots of enthusiasm. Colleges and universities are always looking to expand their roster of professional teachers and lecturers—start by calling your local schools and asking about the process of becoming an instructor. Courses are usually held at night or on the weekends, so teaching shouldn’t interfere with your job search. Contact your local college, technical school, or even high school to find out about opportunities to teach a course in your field. It looks great on your résumé, and, again, you never know who you might meet on the job!

Community Colleges and Online Universities:

There are more than 1,000 community colleges in the U.S. that offer degrees and certifications in a range of fields.

eLeaners offers links to more than 200 online universities:

If you’re considering attending community college or an online university, ask about financial aid and also about job placement assistance. Every day Women For Hire hears from graduates of adult learning programs who say they’re unable to turn that degree into a job offer. When we ask if they’ve talked to career services at their school, their answer is almost always “no”. Not good! Find out in advance about the employers that hire from the program you’re about to shell out bucks for and ask specifically about the employment rate of 2008 graduates. Use that information when deciding on the program for you.

Imagine taking courses from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) or other top flight universities – for free!

MIT has a program called OpenCourseWare which contains materials from all of MIT’s academic departments at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, voluntarily provided by MIT faculty. Site users can download and modify the materials for noncommercial use. The site contains notes from more than 1,500 lectures, 9,000 assignments, and 900 exams. Many courses include enhanced multimedia content, including 31 that contain complete video recordings of course lectures.

It’s all free; no credit, no degree, no access to faculty, but you can’t beat it for self-paced study from some of the most brilliant minds in economics, engineering, aerospace, and so much more. Again, it’s something to talk about on interviews – learning new skills from MIT while looking for a new job.

There is also a consortium of OpenCourseWare opportunities from other top flight colleges and universities worldwide. (View the database of worldwide OpenCourseWare opportunities.)

All current and completed coursework and training should be included on your resume.