Workers who have been laid off can train for new careers at Penn State

October 26, 2011

Adults who qualify for federal trade adjustment assistance have a variety of on-campus and online Penn State programs to choose from for their retraining

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- When Juan Cook Sr.'s account executive job at a printing company went to Mexico, he turned to Penn State to prepare for a new career as a certified drug and alcohol counselor. When he graduates in December, he will start a new job in the rapidly growing health care field. Cook is among nearly 283,000 workers whose jobs have been impacted by trade and globalization, according to the U.S. Labor Department. Penn State is helping laid-off workers like Cook retrain through the federal Trade and Globalization Adjustment Assistance program.

This program, also known as TAA, covers two years of education expenses at postsecondary education institutions and universities, including Penn State, for selected programs. TAA participants also are eligible for unemployment compensation through the federal Trade Readjustment Allowance program.

"TAA helps workers who have lost their jobs prepare for a new high-priority occupation," said Sally Kolesar, Penn State Outreach Admission Services liaison for federal assistance programs. "For some, it's the only opportunity they've had to get an education."

Cook, an Altoona resident, is attending classes through Penn State Continuing Education at University Park, at Penn State Altoona and online through Penn State's World Campus and working part time in health care. The youngest of eight, Cook is dedicated to completing his degree to honor the memory of two brothers. He said, "My associate degree in human development and family studies is going to help me become a certified drug and alcohol counselor. The knowledge I'm learning is helping me at work, and it's given me more self-confidence in my personal life."

Jody Vollmer of St. Marys also lost her job. "The first thing I did was check on TAA eligibility, since our factory work was divided between Mexico and China," said Vollmer, who was a customer service representative until 2009. She returned to Penn State DuBois to complete a degree begun in 1987 and is taking classes on campus and online through World Campus. Vollmer said losing her job was "an opportunity to correct the biggest mistake I ever made -- quitting college in my teens." She expects to graduate with an associate degree in business administration in December.

Four Penn State on-campus and 10 online programs are approved for Pennsylvania students. For more information about using federal retraining assistance at Penn State, contact Sally Kolesar: 814-867-4730,

Penn State Continuing Education offers a venue for adults to return to the classroom. Continuing Education reaches more than 30,000 adult learners annually at Penn State campuses statewide. Penn State World Campus specializes in adult online education, delivering more than 70 of Penn State's most highly regarded graduate, undergraduate and professional education programs through convenient online formats. Continuing Education and World Campus are part of Penn State Outreach, the largest unified outreach organization in American higher education, serving more than 5 million people each year, delivering more than 2,000 programs to people in all 67 Pennsylvania counties, all 50 states and 114 countries worldwide.

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Last Updated October 31, 2011