Coronavirus Impact: Laid-off workers seek new training, careers post-pandemic

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Countless people who found themselves unemployed amid the coronavirus pandemic are taking matters in their own hands and seeking to upgrade their skills.

Chris Weber lost his job as a bar manager in San Francisco due to the pandemic.

At about the same time, Fernanda Deleon's employer furloughed her from her position in retail.

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Both say they don't intend to return to their old jobs and are taking big steps towards new careers.

"I've been wanting to make a change ,and this just kind of came as an opportune restart," said Weber.

"Let me go to college to be able to have a major and be someone in life," declared Deleon.

Deleon decided to enroll in the non-profit Center for Employment Training in San Jose to get certified as a medical assistant.

Adrian Diaz is CET's admissions adviser.

"CET, I consider it a family. We're known for our hands on training," Diaz said.

Weber enrolled at Jewish Vocational Service in San Francisco with an eye towards becoming a Salesforce administrator.

Lisa Countryman-Quiroz is the group's executive director.

"We provide services to everyone who needs support with job training, job placement. anything to do with the job search space," she said.

Despite its name, the majority of students at JVS are not Jewish, including Weber.

He was skeptical at first.

"How good could it possibly be especially if its free, but to be honest, I've been blown away by the training," Weber said.

The program can be difficult to get into, as classes fill up in ten minutes.

On the other hand, CET admits 95% of its applicants. The $13,000 to $15,000 tuition for most students is supported by federal grants and student loans.

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Deleon hopes to minimize her loans by relying on her savings and unemployment.

"I apply for unemployment to pay my school, and now able to use all the money that they give to me," Deleon said.

Both the JVS and CET programs can be completed in about nine months.

Both boast job placement rates of 70% of its graduates.

"If our students do not get a job within their career, with a specific field within six months, then we've not failed. That's where we make the bench mark," said Diaz.

Since the pandemic, JVS has seen a shift in student needs.

"That's really highlighting the need to double down on technology skill building, digital literacy and digital fluency," said Countryman-Quiroz.

Both Weber and Deleon are looking forward to a brighter future.

"I want to help my family and other people," said Deleon.

"There's a lot of opportunity for me," Weber declared.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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