Learning New Skills and Sharpening Old Ones

12 Nov

Dan Cochran has lived in the Austin area for 10 years. His background is in Information Technology, a key economic sector in Austin/Travis County, and his experience with computers began in the military.

Dan enlisted in the U.S. Navy about 6 months after high school and served from 1989 to 1994: “My seagoing squadron was a vertical replenishment/search and rescue platform of H-46 helicopters. I was a plane captain, aircrewman and in-flight electrician,” said Dan.

Dan Cochran

Dan Cochran

“I also served as squadron respiratory program supervisor and the squadron tool calibration coordinator. I created databases to help me track variables, and this was my first introduction to computers in a work setting,” Dan said.

Over the winter of 2017, Dan was seeking a new opportunity in IT. His job searching was unsuccessful, and he sought assistance.

“Workforce Solutions was my first stop after talking with the Texas Workforce Commission for unemployment benefits. I admit, it was a little intimidating going through the mandatory introduction classes and learning how job searching had changed,” Dan said.

At Workforce Solutions Capital Area, Dan met with Melinda Gilley, a career counselor, and Krissi Wells, a data analyst, to explore training opportunities.

“Workforce Solutions, especially Krissi Wells, was a godsend. She kept me motivated and held me responsible,” Dan said.

With assistance from Workforce Solutions Capital Area, Dan enrolled in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) program in February 2018, after realizing his computer skills were outdated and he lacked certifications required by employers.

WIOA is a no-cost employment program designed to give job seekers the support and/or skills training they need to find a job. WIOA can provide services such as job search assistance, child care assistance while in training, transportation assistance, and more. Veterans like Dan receive priority for job and training referrals at our three Career Centers and within the WIOA program.

In March, Dan began the Security Information Technology Associate program at New Horizons. The program was taught live online with students participating on their computers, and Dan found it to be a valuable experience.

“Unlike just watching videos, when you got confused, the instructor could try explaining another way. Despite being remote to one another, there was a lot of discussion and fun,” Dan said.

“The class was fairly moderately paced. I knew most of the basics of hardware, but I really lacked any network and zero security understanding. It filled in many gaps I had in my understanding of things I thought I knew,” he added.

Additional classes Dan took through the WIOA program focused on resume writing, job searching, interviewing and utilizing LinkedIn: “I attended classes at Workforce Solutions Capital Area and New Horizons, and I learned a variety of techniques that I used in my actual job hunt,” he said.

“Dan came into WIOA with a great attitude and was ready to get started on his career. He is a very intelligent man and dedicated father, and his positivity, drive and love for his children pushed him through any minor setback that he may have faced,” Krissi said.

“He took everything that came his way with grace and with a growth mindset. He has already accomplished so much and is in route to accomplish much more. I am honored that I was able to work with him and assist him on his new journey,” she said.

Dan tested for his certifications in June. Upon completion of his training, Daniel began working as a field service engineer for Compucom.

“I am working on hardware for both home consumers and retail customers, and work alone or as the lead of a small group. Point of Sale devices, kiosks, printers and office support are my daily jobs,” Dan said.

“Dan utilized the skills and knowledge he gained from serving in the Navy, and that contributed to his success in his training,” said Melinda.

“Dan wanted to secure a job which would allow him to provide for himself and his family, and the WIOA services and training he received allowed him to do so,” she said.

“I am amazed at how technological the retail industry has become. Everything that involves financial transactions involves the Security+ concepts I learned in my class. It is interesting to actually see the practices in place, and not just as a theory,” said Dan.

Looking back on his experience with the WIOA program, Dan offered advice to other job seekers who may be struggling to find work opportunities or are interested in assistance but are unsure where to look:

“I cannot say enough about the help I received from this program from both the New Horizons team and the Workforce Solution folks. I was in the Resource Center nearly daily and actually was offered leads to jobs while helping fellow job seekers,” said Dan.

“The classes and mock interviews are wonderful tools to find your strengths and weaknesses. If you are a veteran, there are many programs out there that can and will help you beyond the GI Bill,” he said.

Learning new skills and sharpening existing ones is another important point: “If your skills have stagnated, take a class while you are looking for a job or even if you still have a job. The way technology changes, going five years without refreshing your skills is foolish,” Dan said.

“Also, use this time to build your network—it is amazing how many people know someone who is hiring if you just ask around. I attended many job fairs and learned of unexpected programs that offer training, such as Easterseals and Goodwill Central Texas,” added Dan.

Dan also recommend job seekers make time to identify what it is they want to do to find the most satisfaction in their career: “Take advantage of the self-assessments and learn what you like to do. Do not try to take a job just because it pays well. IT, especially Security+, feeds my passion to work with technology and help people solve their problems. I encourage others to invest their time in getting their skills and certifications,” he said.

About WIOA
Workforce Solutions Capital Area offers financial assistance to eligible individuals for job search assistance, training, and other support services through funding from the WIOA program. This is a no-cost employment program designed to give job seekers the support and/or skills training they need to find a job.

 

Visit Workforce Solutions Capital Area’s WIOA page to learn more.

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