Adults hone new skills to land jobs

By: Loryll Nicolaisen Journal Staff Writer
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A group of 13 men and women are boosting their résumés in an Auburn classroom at this very moment. They’re only in their second day of the Placer Adult School Strategies and Assistance in Gaining Employment, or PASSAGE, program, but already they’ve fired up their computers and started learning the inner workings of Windows Vista. The intensive six-week program started Tuesday, meets four days a week and focuses on marketable computer and office skills. It’s meant to give men and women looking to enter, re-enter or move up in the workplace a step up, said Jeri Juergenson, one of two PASSAGE instructors. And with a difficult and highly competitive job market, every little boost helps. “It’s always good to be able to update a résumé,” Juergenson said. Those enrolled in the program have varying experience levels with computers. Some need to become computer literate to hunt for jobs. Others want to brush up on their skills before looking for a new job. Darla O’Connor of Meadow Vista said the first day of class was a bit overwhelming, and that she had a lot to absorb. “I’ve been an at-home mom,” she said. “Now is the time to start a new life and learn how to find work in today’s world. I’m trying to find ways to increase my employability.” O’Connor said she needs office and computer skills, and she liked that the PASSAGE program offers both components. Alta Sierra resident Farrell Ross enrolled in PASSAGE as a way to increase his skills during a down time in the manufactured homes business. “Because the housing industry is so slow I thought I’d take some time to retool and learn some new skills,” he said. “It’s really a good opportunity for me to learn a new skill.” Ross said he’s got time on his hands and that he doesn’t plan on sitting idle. “It’s so slow right now and rather than mope around I’m trying to do something that’s productive, and what’s more productive than trying to learn new skills and sharpen your skills?” he said. Cool resident Ashleigh Williamson enrolled in PASSAGE for a similar economy-based reason. “I own a house-cleaning business with my mom. With where the economy is going, it’s kind of scary because it’s more of a luxury than what you need,” she said. Williamson hopes the skills she learns during the PASSAGE program will help her get a more stable job. “Our house-cleaning business isn’t something I can depend on financially. I want more consistent pay and more consistent hours,” she said. The Journal’s Loryll Nicolaisen can be reached at, or comment online at