There is, in fact, life after layoffs

Justin Sasaki
Justin Sasaki
Lisa Ann Katagiri
Lisa Ann Katagiri
James Bright
James Bright

By Tannya Joaquin - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Bouncing from job to job has become more common since the economy tanked, and businesses folded, but there are success stories too. There are people who've bounced back by reinventing themselves.

Justin Sasaki said, "After Aloha folded, it was pretty devastating." The end of Aloha Airlines was a double whammy for he and his wife, Wendy, because they were both flight attendants. Wendy was pregnant with their third child at the time.

Justin landed on his feet at the Honolulu Advertiser, but was laid off again. He remarked, "I was like, is this how my life is going to be? Am I going to get a job, get laid off, look in the Sunday paper, get another job, get laid off again?"

After being laid off not once but twice, Justin made a life change. He turned to steaks and that's turned out to be a booming business.

Justin said, "One day my wife came in and said we should open a Blazin' Steaks, and she said, 'Yeah the ones that sell steak plates.'"

A lot of steak plates. Justin just opened the first neighbor island Blazin' Steaks in his hometown, Kona, and business is booming.

He expressed, "The Kona store was cranking the first few months. You couldn't even walk in there. It was crazy."

How many steaks is he selling each day in Kona right now? "Probably total about five hundred plates a day."

Mass layoffs at Aloha and other large employers like Molokai Ranch led to an offer by the UH community college system for half-off tuition for workers let go. Hundreds took up the offer to find another calling at college.

School has been the road to reinvention for Lisa Ann Katagiri. She said, "I was laid off from one of my jobs. I finally found another job after about six months and was laid off again."

Lisa received an $8,000 grant to go back to school studying journalism, publication and design at Hawaii Pacific University.

The Vice President of Enrollment Management at HPU, Scott Stensrud expressed, "We've seen a significant. increase in the past two years of returning adults coming back to higher education."

The average age for an undergraduate on the HPU main campus is now 29 years old.

Former construction worker, James Bright, traded in his hard hat for a laptop. He's going for his Masters at the University of Hawaii to teach elementary school. He stated, "I feel that camaraderie with other students coming back. I found teaching. I thought it would be a more rewarding experience."

Rewarding, but a reality check too. Remember Lisa? She's not just James' study partner. She's his fiance. She said, "It was very difficult at first. We've both been out of work 1-2 years."

The hardest part is now behind them; both graduate soon. For anyone in their position, they have these words of wisdom: "Dig deep and figure out what you want to do with your life."

You can use resources out there to do it. One stop centers, like Oahu work links, offer free job training, resume help, and financial aid. Honolulu alone received 3 million dollars in stimulus funds for tuition assistance. That can help many down on their luck find there is life after layoffs.

There are one-stop job training centers on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island. For information about those, go to

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