Retraining programs flooded with applicants as pandemic spurs many to switch careers

Updated: May. 19, 2021 at 5:38 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The pandemic has spurred a growing number of people to change careers ― or think about it.

A survey from Prudential found that 20% of respondents switched careers during the pandemic, and 26% plan on looking for another job when things stabilize.

The trend has sent a flood of Hawaii residents to workforce development programs.

The University of Hawaii’s Oahu Back to Work program, for example, was “wildly successful,” according to Tammi Chun, Interim Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs.

The program was funded by the CARES Act funding and provided free classes to those who found themselves under- or unemployed due to the pandemic.

“From October to December, we provided free job training for jobs that are available or skills for which employers are currently hiring,” said Chun. “It ranged from everything from a security guard to aquaponics technician to air conditioning or HVAC technician or phlebotomist.”

The program provided 2,200 training opportunities to 1,600 participants.

Meanwhile, UH scholarships are also available to those seeking re-training.

[To apply for the scholarship program, click here.]

David Ochoco, an inter-island commuter pilot who lost his job, is among those who took advantage of the funds. “I went through a lot of soul searching trying to figure out whether or not I wanted to wait it out,” he said.

He received UH’s Kulia Scholarship which helps those who are unemployed or furloughed.

“It gave you kind of that boost when everything in the world is so negative,” Ochoco said.

Lindsey Brown worked in the hospitality business for 10 years before she was laid off. She also got a scholarship.

“I started looking into careers in the medical field,” she said. “So I signed up for Spring 2021 to take several pre-req classes.”

She’s determined to get a job in the medical field and now she is one of many who turned pandemic tragedy into a new opportunity.

“It’s exciting,” she said. “I have more motivation to try to start something new.”

The University of Hawaii said that they are in talks with the city on reviving something similar to the Oahu Back to Work Program.

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