I am pretty sure that when people talk about the need to retrain our older workers, they are talking about me, or at least people like me. After my freshman year of college in 1987 I had a summer job at golf course. As the summer came to an end they asked me if I wanted to stay on as an irrigation technician, they offered me ten-dollars an hour, which at the time seemed like a lot of money. I figured I would do it for a year, save up some cash and maybe even transfer from a commuter school, to flagship university. 26 years later I was still working at the golf course, over the years I have alternated between thinking it was the smartest decision, or luckiest, to the worst decision I ever made.
Especially early on, it was great job, with raises of anywhere from five to ten percent a year, in addition most the members of the course contributed to a Christmas fund that was split among all the employees, it was usually over a thousand dollars. I think it was the late nineties that the raises stopped and most the new guys didn't believe me that Christmas bonuses used to be in the four figures, in fact I doubt they would believe they were in the three figures. About two years ago all grounds keeping functions were subcontracted out. I was offered a chance to stay on for eleven dollars and hour and they paid fifty percent of the employees health insurance after six months.
I decided to go on unemployment and return to school
Returning to the same commuter Campus I left 26 years ago is a bit of a shock. The school has a mascot, the roadrunners. If there was a mascot back in the day no one mentioned it, in fact I am pretty sure we didn't have sports teams at all, now there is a division I basketball team and apparently numerous other sports teams, and of course they come with an athletic fee and a stadium bond fee and several other fees that seem related to varsity athletics. In fairness the college I am attending is still very affordable, with tuition and fees coming in at about five thousand dollars a year if I am figuring it correctly, but it still seems like there are a lot of non education related expenses.
Another change I noticed, financial aid doesn't mean what it used to mean, when I was in college before, my financial aid "offer" had a pell grant and some possibility of work study, which covered about half the tuition costs. The aid offer I got this time covers tuition and good amount of living expenses, but it is all in the form of loans. My net worth could be close to zero at this point in my life, but at least it's not negative, like it could potentially be when I graduate, and I am starting to realize going to school may be a huge financial risk.
I don't know if all older displaced workers are in my situation, but I do know that returning to school for retraining is far scarier than the president makes it sound when he talks about education.
I just hope at this point I can find my classrooms