How three laid-off Boeing workers made
the most of Trade Adjustment Assistance
Graduating 40 years after starting a bachelors’ degree
By Brian Metz
SPEEA Communications Intern
We found out in October of 2014 our group (Boeing Training Development out
of Longacres, Renton) would be eliminated, effective early 2015. WorkSource
(the Washington State Employment
Security Department’s jobs program),
SPEEA, and the Washington State Labor
Council (WSLC) all hosted in-person
workshops laying out the various programs and options available. The Trade
Adjustment Assistance program stood
out for me. I’d started a bachelor’s degree
40 years earlier but hadn’t finished.
I started with an internet search for
nearby bachelor’s programs that I was
A) interested in, B) qualified for, and C)
stood a good chance of qualifying me for
new work outside my current career. For more
than 25 years, I worked as a graphic designer, illustrator, and multimedia developer. Now I wanted
something I could build on and broaden my work
history and credentials.
I found the Integrated Strategic Communications
degree through the Edward R. Murrow College
of Communication out of Washington State
University (WSU), at their Everett campus. It
focused on persuasive written communications
including public relations, marketing, advertising,
social and new media and communication theory.
This would give me training and background for
the written and theoretical side of the house I’d
been working next to (figuratively) for more than
a quarter century. After I was accepted into the
program, I met with my Trade Act advisor.
Once we verified I was eligible for Trade Act as
a displaced worker covered under Boeing’s petition, my advisor directed me to some resources
for the research I would need to fulfill the six
criteria for getting the retraining.
1. There is no suitable employment
for the worker
2. The worker would benefit from
3. There is a reasonable expectation of
employment following the training
4. The training must be reasonably
available to the worker
5. The worker is qualified to obtain and
complete the training, including having
adequate financial resources available to
complete the training when income
support is exhausted
6. The training is suitable and
available at a reasonable cost
The advisor pointed me to websites to show the
market for my particular job was down and the
market for my degree was growing. I had some
credits from college in the late 1970s, an associate’s
degree from art school, and an associate’s degree
from online classes at a local community college.
As a result, I had the general university require-
ments out of the way and only needed about 50
credits to finish the degree. Though the tuition,
books, and fees pushed the limits of what TAA
would pay for, my program qualified as reputable
with a high chance of leading to a new career.
Another element of the job market research
involved informational interviews with practicing professionals in the field(s) I was looking to
enter. My advisors at the Murrow College gave
me a list of names, and I did the interviews by
phone in relatively short order.
With research and interviews in hand, I submitted
my application (which my TAA advisor walked
through with me), and then passed it on for approval. Commissioner Approved Training (CAT) is the
step that allows you to receive basic UI payments
without looking for work; the understanding is that
attending class full time is your work. In fact, once
you sign the contract for the training, you’re specifically not allowed to look for or accept work (until
you exhaust your basic UI benefits).
The TAA program established an account with the
college in my name. Tuition, books and fees were
paid directly by TAA. I had to pay for the quarterly
parking pass but simply submitted a scan of the
receipt via email for reimbursement. TAA also has
a travel allowance that kicks in if the training is
25 miles or further from your home.
Once enrolled, you submit your course syllabi,
mid-term grades, and final grades via email, with
one in-person meeting at mid-term with your
counselor per quarter/semester.
School can be fun
And here’s the thing – school at this age
is fun. The knowledge and experience
you bring to it makes for a much richer,
much deeper engagement with the process than in your early twenties. Many of
my co-workers were skeptical about the
idea of going back to school – some had
gone to work for the company straight
out of high school or college and felt
they couldn’t shift gears to go back.
More and more, our economy requires
workers to be life-long learners, constantly refreshing our skills and learning
new tools and processes. We do this as
a matter of course in our working lives
and sometimes don’t stop to recognize the
advantage it gives us as returning students.
Another advantage of the Everett campus is the diversity of the student body.
A range of ages, veterans, parents, international
students, as well as displaced workers, makes for
a rich mix of experiences.
I have never had such a rich and rewarding school
experience as these last two years. There’s something
about trying school with a lifetime’s work experience that makes it very different from doing it
fresh out of high school. Not only work experience,
but also life experience adds to every lecture, every
paper, every conversation with your fellow students.
Losing a job… losing a career… is painful. But it
doesn’t have to be a catastrophe. TAA is one path
that could lead to a whole new chapter. If facing a
layoff, take a good long look at this program. Do
some internet searches for training or schooling
that you might be interested in, even if it’s not
right in line with what you’ve been doing in your
career. If you find something, and the numbers
work out right, give it a chance.
David Holter, 55, another SPEEA member
who also worked in our group as a multimedia
graphic designer, spent several months searching
for work before he turned to the TAA program.
“I was skeptical initially, thinking I had enough skills
heading out as part of the unemployed workforce
but after realizing how my skills no longer matched
the new technology, going through the whole process of applying, getting a school and starting the
educational process felt more like steps towards a
solution, in the big picture,” he said.
“In the initial process, not always knowing
what to do next was frustrating. The school I’m
attending isn’t one my TAA group has much knowledge of, so I found out who in the school was
responsible on my own,” Holter said. “You really
have to be your own advocate.”
SPEEA communications intern Brian Metz, 57, is shown here with his journalism teacher, Lucrezia Cuen Paxson. He’s earning an Integrated Strategic
Communications degree from Washington State University at the Everett campus.
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