Unemployed seek to improve job skills

January 23, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
1.7 million people in California were looking for work in December. Almost one out of every 10 Californians is out of work. And of course, all of these job losses mean a lot of people -- people who are used to working for a paycheck -- are being forced to ask for help.

Employment offices here in the Bay Area are packed. People are taking advantage of any and every program available.

It's an hour before the Nova job center in Sunnyvale closes and every computer is taken. Also, on every screen are job search sites, listings, and job descriptions.

"I'm an electrical engineer," says Willem DeLang, who is now unemployed.

Willem DeLang is 62 and out of work. While he hopes to find something online, others are taking job training workshops.

"Over the last few weeks we've had workshops that have been filled to capacity, we just can't let more people in once room is at maximum capacity," said Kathy Puryear, a Nova supervisor.

Nova counselors say it hasn't been this busy since the dot-com bust, but analysts warn, things could get worse.

"If the U.S. unemployment rate goes up to 10 percent which is what most predictions are, the California rate could go up as high as 12 percent," says Professor Phillip Martin, Ph.D., from U.C. Davis.

"How does it make anyone feel if you don't have a job?" says Anthony Salas, who is now unemployed.

Salas, an electrician, is among the 1.7 million people looking for work in California. On Friday he attended a career explorations workshop at Nova.

"I'm hoping that will open the door for me to get into something green," says Salas.

The workshop directed attendees toward green tech and nursing.

"Very worried as are most people," says Connie Beech, from San Jose.

Connie Beech is slightly better off than most. She has a job as a part time tutor, but in these volatile economic times, she wants job stability. She's taking computer classes to add to her skill set.

"It is really helpful to find out what the market is right now and everything is so tight, so I have to keep out there and keep applying and keep networking until I find the right niche for myself," says Beech.

But according to job counselors, that could take months.