After she was injured in the 35W bridge collapse in 2007, Linda Paul was unable to return to her former job at a local decorating business. When job hunting proved fruitless, she decided that it was time to retrain and enrolled in the architectural drafting and estimating program at Dunwoody College of Technology (dunwoody.edu).
"I've always been interested in architecture, have a degree in art history and have experience in interior design, so learning architectural drafting is really like growing branches on a tree," Paul says.
Looking for satisfaction
Many college graduates are returning to school to learn a technical skill. Unlike Paul, most have not suffered a traumatic injury, but like her, they may be having difficulty finding a job or career satisfaction.
"We have quite a few students with four-year degrees - especially recent graduates," says Jeff Ylinen, dean of learning and chief student affairs officer at Dunwoody. "They may be struggling to find jobs. Or they may be working, but not advancing in their career."
When college graduates add a technical skill to their portfolio, their careers often take off. A four-year degree plus technical expertise in a particular industry is good preparation for a leadership position. "Employers love folks who combine technical skills with the writing, communication and critical-thinking skills they learned in college," Ylinen says.
For this reason, Dunwoody now offers a bachelor of science degree designed for people with a two-year technical degree who want to advance into management or leadership positions within their industry.
Fields of opportunity
Ylinen says that the demand for people with training in manufacturing is on the rise. This includes everything from machining and milling to designing and operating the electronic systems that control the manufacturing process. "These are high-tech, cool jobs," he says.
Also in demand are individuals trained in automotive service and repair; computer networking, web programming and data base development; and health sciences and technology.
Some economists believe that in the future, jobs will be divided not into blue and white collar, but instead into work that can be "off-shored" and work that can't.
Ylinen agrees. "The job skills we teach are needed here. If a company is remodeling its air-conditioning system, that has to be done here. And you don't send your car overseas to be repaired."
Don't limit yourself
Paul looks forward to finding a job in an architectural firm or the properties division of a large company, which will combine her business experience, artistic savvy and technical expertise. "In some ways, this has allowed me to do something I always wanted to do," she says.
Paul encourages would-be career-changers to consider learning a technical skill. "Don't be limited by your idea of who you think you are," she advises.