In the past decade, millions of Americans have been laid off. Unemployment is at 9 percent (8.8 percent in Colorado), with the number of long-term unemployed people (jobless for more than 27 weeks) at a whopping 5.8 million. It’s discouraging and downright scary to lose your job, especially if you’ve been in the same industry for years. What now? How do you start over, especially if you have a family to support?

You’re not alone. These days, community colleges around the country, including Front Range, are seeing a significant increase in enrollments—from high school graduates looking to save thousands in tuition by starting at a community college before transferring, to laid-off workers who want to upgrade skills or retrain for a new career. According to the American Association of Community Colleges, full-time enrollment at U.S. community colleges increased 24 percent between fall 2007 and fall 2009.

If you’re in this boat, how can you make the most of your college experience, whether this is your first, second, or fifth time around? Here are a few tips:

  1. Use college resources: Maybe you’ve never been to college. Maybe you went 20 years ago, but are intimidated by the idea of going back. Either way, it can’t hurt to bolster your support system by taking full advantage of the learning resources and support services available to you. Most colleges offer a long list of services, and they’re usually free to students—why not use them? Front Range, for example, offers academic advising, tutoring services, transfer planning, career services, personal counseling, disability and veteran student support, testing services, a wide variety of student groups (for students from all walks of life), and much more.
  2. Don’t wait to network: If you’re back in college after getting laid off, you’re likely focused on skill-building to land your next job. But these days, getting jobs is about more than sending out résumés. Start talking to instructors, get involved in your future industry, and do whatever you can to build relationships that will help you when you start job-hunting. Stop by your college’s career center early in your return to college. Be sure to talk to an academic advisor at least once a semester. Advisors help students create well-written résumés, find internships, explore occupations, and more.
  3. Get involved: Getting involved on campus is fun and a great way to meet people, but it’s more than that. You’ll boost your résumé, expand your network, build leadership skills, and get involved on campus and in the greater community.
  4. Secure your future: In today’s economy, it can’t hurt to follow industry demand. Fast-growing industries such as health care and information technology provide stable career opportunities. Your instructors and professors can help you explore possibilities and identify prospective employers in the immediate geographic area and beyond. At Front Range, we continually design career-technical programs that respond to industry demand. Examples include our Clean Energy Technology, Health Information Technology , and Horticulture and Landscape Technologies programs.


The recession has hit home for many of us, but if you’ve gone back to school to improve yourself through education, it’s a decision you won’t regret. What lessons have you learned thus far about being back in school after a layoff? Share your lessons below.

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