Retraining for a Second Career while Dealing with Debt

If you are out of work or laid-off and need to upgrade your skills to improve your employment potential, how can you do this without incurring more debt? The Ontario government has a Second Career program that offers financial support to retrain for in-demand jobs for those who qualify. I talk with David Shumaker, an employment counsellor at The Working Centre in Kitchener, where he coaches program applicants through the process. We look at how Second Career works and provide advice on how to manage debt while you are retraining.

Or watch the podcast on YouTube

What is Second Career Ontario?

The Second Career program provides financial support to cover the cost of tuition, books, transportation, and child care while you retrain for a better career. The program can also provide a basic living allowance while you are getting new skills-training.

To qualify, you must:

  • Be a Canadian citizen, or a permanent resident, or be recognized as a Convention refugee
  • Have been laid off from your job, either because your plant or department closed, or there is a lack of work, or you have had to leave your job due to documented medical reasons.
  • Not be working now, or only working in a temporary position to cover costs.

Once you’ve determined eligibility, you will work with your employment counsellor to determine whether you’re suited for, and actually have an interest in, pursuing one of the career paths that is in high-demand. You will also have to show how long you have been unemployed and how much effort you have placed into looking for work.

How to retrain your skills and manage your debt

Retraining can help you access better employment opportunities. A higher, more steady income makes it easier to make ends meet comfortably without relying on debt to survive.

If you already have debt, it’s important to make sure your debt situation doesn’t get worse.

Here are some tips on how can you manage that debt while you are in a retraining program:

  1. Keep up with your minimum payments to avoid future problems with your credit report
  2. Prioritize debts if you don’t have enough to pay them all. Your rent, mortgage & car payment are likely your top priorities.
  3. Use any grace periods. Some mortgages may allow you to skip a payment. Postponing payments is OK for a short period, but know you need a plan to get back on track afterward.
  4. While we don’t recommend them, if you have any loan insurance now is the time to use it.
  5. Talk with your creditors – ask for an interest rate reduction, negotiate lower monthly payments or ask to postpone a payment or two.
  6. Cut back on any unnecessary expenses and avoid further debt as much as you can.
  7. Talk to a professional like a Licensed Insolvency Trustee about your debt relief options & whether it makes sense to file before or after you return to work or increase your income. By eliminating your debt now, you can ensure a more comfortable retraining process.

To learn more about what an employment counsellor does for their clients and how Second Career can benefit you, tune in to today’s podcast or read the completed transcription below.

Additional Resources

FULL TRANSCRIPT – Show 221 Retraining for a Second Career while Dealing with Debt

A Second Career While Dealing with Debt

Doug Hoyes:       What causes people to accumulate so much debt it can sometimes lead to bankruptcy? In a lot of cases not having a good job. According to our Joe Debtor bankruptcy study, 55% of our clients indicated that job-related issues contributed to their financial difficulties. What are job-related issues? Well, the biggest one, of course, is losing your job and that’s a very common occurrence these days. Companies get bought out or go out of business or work dries up and you lose your job.

If you have up-to-date skills and if your skills are in demand, that’s not a big problem; you could find another job. But what if you’ve worked at the same company or the same job for a long time and your skills are out of date, or what if you have specific skills that are no longer in demand, or what if you’re new to the area or returning after a long period out of the workforce, how can you get back into the workforce?

That’s a question a lot of my clients ask me and the answer is they need to pursue a second career. They need retraining to get the skills that are in demand but there’s more to it than just taking some courses. Even if you have skills, you’ve got to prepare a résumé and submit job applications. How can you do that if you don’t have access to a computer and the Internet because, let’s face it, today everything is done over the Internet?

It’s a fact that many people today are struggling to pay bills on a lower than average income. For many of my clients, they turn to debt to survive. Upgrading your skills and finding a better job could solve this problem but where can you get this retraining? And if you’re out of work and have no money, how can you pay for retraining? Good questions. And today I’ve got a brand new guest with the answers, so let’s get started. Who are you, where do you work and what do you do?

David Shumaker: Yeah, great. Well, good morning and thanks for having me here, Doug. I really appreciate talking about what we do. My name is David Shumaker and I’m an employment counsellor at The Working Centre in downtown Kitchener.

Doug Hoyes:       And tell me a bit about The Working Centre. What does it do?

David Shumaker:  Yeah, well, it does lots of different things. So I like to think of it as an umbrella that has lots of different pieces under it. It’s been around for about 35 years in the heart of Kitchener and it really exists to address issues of homelessness and unemployment and underemployment.

So we have a number of different projects that allow people to volunteer in the community, so to belong in that way but also to build their skills, but we also have employment help and financial help, which is part of what I do — the employment piece — helping people with their résumé, cover letters, helping them if they’re not familiar with the job search process.

Doug Hoyes:       So, very practical skills is what you’re helping people with?

David Shumaker: Very practical. Yeah and, exactly, but more than just practical, at the heart of what we do is people and relationships, so we want to take people very seriously, not do for them but walk with them as they’re trying to discover the next steps of their journey.

Doug Hoyes:       And you’re a not-for-profit agency so explain to me what Second Career means?

David Shumaker: Yeah, so Second Career is one of the programs that we help to offer and it’s an Ontario government program that offers people who’ve been laid off or who’ve lost their jobs through no fault of their own, to retrain and get back into the workforce, and it offers, if you qualify, some living support as well, as you’re retraining.

Doug Hoyes:       And so who would typically qualify then?

David Shumaker: Yeah, so there are a number of, kind of, criteria and we can talk about that over the time we have.

Doug Hoyes:       Well, yeah, so give me the, kind of, the overview then. Who would be the typical person that would qualify for something like this?

David Shumaker: Yeah, so it’s broken into, kind of, two steps; what is called eligibility and what’s called suitability. So I’ll just talk about each of those, so that, kind of, describes the typical person. Eligibility are some basic things. Are you a Canadian citizen, are you a permanent resident or are you a recognized convention refugee, but, also, have you been laid off from your job, either because of your plant closed or your department closed or a lack of work? Okay?

But it also could cover other things like you had to leave your job because of documented medical reasons, like you can no longer do your job and you have a physician’s note that says that that’s the case. Yeah, those would be some of the most common reasons that people leave.

Doug Hoyes:       So that’s eligibility and then what does suitability mean?

David Shumaker: Yeah, great. One other piece of eligibility I forgot to mention is that Second Career helps with skills training but it has to be in training in an area where there’s a high demand, and we can talk about that a bit later. So those are some of the markers of eligibility.

For everyone who is eligible, those, kind of, of minimum benchmarks, not everyone then becomes suitable. And the way I like to think about it is Second Career, as they go through all of these applications of people who are applying for the funding, they, kind of, rank and they prioritize those who’ve been out of work longer, okay, those who’ve been on their layoff job for a number of years.

So there’s a number of suitability markers, like how long have you been unemployed, how long have you been looking for work — because those aren’t necessarily the same thing — is the job that you’re going into, is it something that you need a certificate or a licence for, in other words, is it regulated in the province of Ontario, because if it is, you get more points? Think of it as a points system and the idea is to accumulate points past a threshold that will then make you suitable for the program.

They also prioritize people who have fewer skills from the get-go, for example, people who have, let’s say, a high school diploma are prioritized over people who have a university degree, okay? The idea is to help people to develop their skills and to move onto jobs for which there is a demand.

Doug Hoyes:       So I want to talk more about the program but you’ve mentioned demand again, so it is for jobs that are in high demand.

David Shumaker: That’s right.

Doug Hoyes:       What does that mean?

David Shumaker: Yeah, so the government of Canada, they do what’s called labour market research and what they do is they do a survey and they find where are there lots of job openings but there aren’t a lot of people who are applying? So that would be in demand.

Doug Hoyes:       Gotcha. And like off the top of your head right now, and we’re recording this in November of 2018, so if someone’s watching this two years in the future then this will be a different answer, but what kind of jobs are in high demand right now and, in particular, in this area?

David Shumaker: In this area, yeah. There are a number and as we go through the process with people we have a list of those, but some of the ones that come to mind, a huge one is being a transport truck driver. That’s in huge demand.

Doug Hoyes:       Gotcha.

David Shumaker: And I see that in the news all the time.

Doug Hoyes:       And that’s something that requires some training. It’s not something I could just go do. You’ve got to have a special licence and that sort of thing.

David Shumaker: That’s right.

Doug Hoyes:       So you would help with the training. Okay, so let’s walk through then how the program actually works then. So, you know, you’re a counsellor, so how do you walk a client through the process, what sort of questions do you ask, you know, how do they decide what they want to train and all those kind of things? So let’s say I’ve come to you for the first time, and how is it that I’ve come to you? I’ve heard about you guys? Do you get referred from various agencies? How do people find you originally, typically?

David Shumaker: Yeah. There are two main ways. One is when people lose their job they often go on unemployment insurance and so at the unemployment insurance office our counsellors, or counsellors from other employment Ontario agencies in the area, they go and they give a presentation about all the options of the employment Ontario agencies, including job search, résumé help, but also Second Career.

Doug Hoyes:       Gotcha.

David Shumaker: So they would be referred to us through that encounter and then the first step would be to go to what’s called an information session which we hold at the Working Centre once a month. So people sign into that and basically what we would do is I help facilitate that. For an hour and a half we give a presentation about here’s what Second Career is. We go through all those things that we’ve talked about, eligibility, suitability, the financial help that’s on offer if you qualify, and that gives people, kind of, a first blush of what this program can offer them and what they can do with the program. So that’s the first step.

If they like what they hear, if they think that they qualify, then what they would do is they would set up an individual appointment with a counsellor like myself or my co-workers.

Doug Hoyes:       And so I’ve gone to the initial meeting and, yep, okay, based on what I’ve heard, I probably qualify, I might be suitable, I don’t know for sure, so I come in to meet with you.

David Shumaker: That’s right.

Doug Hoyes:       And then what happens at that initial meeting?

David Shumaker: Yeah, so it’s, kind of, a couple of things. One is I just take the person very seriously where they are, to get to know them. Tell me about your story? What brought you here today? Yes, I know it’s Second Career but what are some of the other life forces that are in effect? So just that I get a fuller picture as possible so I know how to help or how to refer them to other services that they might find helpful.

But then what we do is we go through that suitability and eligibility piece to make sure that we’re not wasting their time, right? And we fill out — it’s just this suitability and eligibility — we fill it out and if they’re good to go then we move onto the next step which is thinking about the financial pieces.

Doug Hoyes:       Okay. So let’s say I come in and I’ve, you know, got a high school diploma and I’m in pretty good health and I’d really like to be a truck driver and it turns out there’s a big demand for that, and so you say, “Okay, well, it looks like you’re eligible, it looks like you’re suitable,” now what do we do?

David Shumaker: Yeah. So we, kind of, lay out, kind of, all the requirements. So there’s lots of paperwork. It seems like a lot of paperwork but that’s just so we can keep our ducks in a row because part of my job and my co-workers’ job is to shepherd through the process so it’s a successful application because we send it, then, to the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities. They assess each of the applicants’ applications that come in.

But part of that is gathering a lot of information. First of all, I just help the person to know if they’ve really made a good decision. Okay? Is truck driving what you really want to do? So we have a conversation about that, okay, but next is the person has to do some research on their own, okay, so, for example, they have to contact the school or schools, the training programs that they’re interested in applying to, okay, and so in some cases actually going to the school, talking to a counsellor there, one of their intake counsellors or the registrar or something like that.

Also applying to the school, right, because obviously a Second Career application won’t be successful if you don’t get into the program.

Doug Hoyes:       Right. That’s what this is all about. And so you’re, kind of, like the coach there.

David Shumaker: I see myself as a coach, yeah, a shepherd, yes.

Doug Hoyes:       So I’ve never applied for these programs, I don’t know how to fill out all this paperwork.

David Shumaker: That’s right.

Doug Hoyes:       I don’t know what schools are out there, I don’t even know what kind of jobs maybe I’m eligible for, I don’t even know what I’d like to do. I mean, I liked doing my old job but I’ve been laid off from that, so you’re, kind of, there coaching me on, “Well, this, this. Here’s a few other options.”

David Shumaker: Here’s some options, exactly, yeah.

Doug Hoyes:       “Here’s the paperwork that needs to be filled out.” Okay, so let’s say we pick that particular truck-driving school in my example and so you send me off to talk to them and they say, yeah, as a matter of fact we’ve got classes starting in such and such a time and here’s how the costs work and whatnot.

David Shumaker: That’s right.

Doug Hoyes:       So I come back to you and I say, “Oh yeah. This looks like the thing for me. How am I going to pay for it?”

David Shumaker: Yeah. So a great question. So what happens is they get accepted into the program, they have a special letter that’s part of our dossier, the application, and that third piece that I, kind of, alluded to earlier is the financial piece. So the way that Second Career works, and it’s really quite a benefit, is there are two parts to the financial piece. One is covering the cost of tuition and books and fees itself, so that’s one piece. So if you’re suitable and eligible, most likely you will also have the tuition books and fees and other sorts of costs associated with training paid for, okay?

But then the second part of that financial piece is what is called the basic living allowance or BLA, and what that means is if you qualify — and not everyone does — if you qualify, then through Second Career you can get some of your basic living expenses covered; things like rents or a mortgage, food for your family up to a certain amount and your utilities up to a certain amount. Other things wouldn’t be covered, for example, and so people need to know this.

This is one of the things that I find most often, is that I try to help people that have eyes wide open when it comes to the financial piece because Second Career won’t cover your credit card, your debt, it won’t cover your car loan or your car insurance or any other sorts of outstanding credit that you have. It can cover childcare expenses if that pertains to you.

Doug Hoyes:       So if someone comes in and they say, “Okay, obviously I need to pay the tuition, the books and the lab fees,” or whatever it is that this course entails, no problem, that would be covered, “But, oh, by way, because I’ve been unemployed for the last six months, I’ve got a bunch of debt. I’ve had to use my credit card and whatnot to survive.” Then that’s not something your program can help with. That’s a totally separate thing. So I think before we close the show, I’ll give a few comments on what people can do who are in that situation, who’ve got a bunch of debt and are going through a retraining situation.

David Shumaker: And that would help me, yeah.

Doug Hoyes:       Perfect. So we’ll finish with that. But that’s good to know then. So tuition, books, fees and, if you’re eligible, basic living allowance, you know, to cover rent, food, that sort of thing, will work. So, again, I keep going back to this truck driver example.

David Shumaker: Sure, because that’s helpful. Yeah.

Doug Hoyes:       Just because I can actually visualize that in my head.

David Shumaker: Yes.

Doug Hoyes:       So a truck driver program lasts for — I don’t know, how long — a couple of months, three months, six months? How long would a typical program be? Do you have any idea?

David Shumaker: Yeah, so it’s about an eight-week program.

Doug Hoyes:       Eight-week program. Okay, so a couple of months.

David Shumaker: Yeah.

Doug Hoyes:       So let’s say it’s going to start on — I don’t know — February 1st is when the program starts, so for those two months the program will help me – Well, obviously it’ll pay the tuition, the rent and obviously my living expenses if I qualify. And then at the end of the two-month program, well, hopefully I’m now in a position to get a job and, you know, it was a success.

What is the typical timeline then from when — and I realize this is different in every case — so I’m asking you a question you can’t answer but that’s my job here, right? So what is the typical timeline from when I first talk to you, to when I could be starting the actual program? It’s not going to be one day, obviously. I mean, you have to wait till the school year starts or the next course starts. What’s a typical timeline?

David Shumaker: You know, yeah, that’s a good question. I’m not sure there is a typical. Most of the time we try to encourage people to have as much lead time as possible because as you can imagine, leading up to especially semester beginnings like at Conestoga or the private career colleges in September and January, they are scrambling to process as many applications as they can, so we try to encourage people to give some lead time, but it varies.

I’ve seen people who have started planning a year out and I’ve seen people who have come in with two weeks to spare. We try to make that happen, no guarantees. It all depends on how quickly the person can do all the research that they need to do.

Doug Hoyes:       But the more lead time the better?

David Shumaker: The more lead time the better to really do that research well. May I also go back and say one thing about the living expenses that might help people. There are some cases in which Second Career won’t cover the BLA, the basic living allowance, and people need to know this as well, as they’re putting together their financial picture. One is if you’re on EI, okay, and you’re going to be on EI throughout the duration of your program, then EI becomes your basic living allowance.

Doug Hoyes:       Yeah, you’re already getting it.

David Shumaker: You’re already getting it, right?

Doug Hoyes:       Right.

David Shumaker: The other is if you’re going into a part-time program. Part-time programs, Second Career won’t cover BLA for that because the idea is that you can go to school part-time and then work part or fulltime to make up those expenses.

Doug Hoyes:       Right. So it’s help for people who really need the help. That, kind of, makes sense.

David Shumaker: That’s exactly right. And that’s part of the application assessment. That’s right.

Doug Hoyes:       And it makes sense. If I want to go to Conestoga and the course starts in September and it’s now February, well, obviously I can’t start till September so there’s going to be a lead time involved then. So if I’ve been laid off and I’m not working and I want to be retrained and the perfect program for me starts in September but it’s many months in advance of that, is there any support that your organization offers during that period before I can actually start working?

David Shumaker: There’s not direct financial support, no, other than — well, it is quite tangible support — is that probably what you need is to be working. Yeah. So we can help with the job search to do, kind of, what’s called an interim job before you start school that can help defray some of those expenses for you. Yeah.

Doug Hoyes:       And so you’ve got contacts with local employers, the temp agencies, you know how the job boards work at the employment centre, all that kind of stuff.

David Shumaker: That’s right. Mostly what we focus on is what’s called self-presentation, right? Does your résumé really tell your story? Highlighting your strengths. Does your cover letter also tell that story? Yes, we have connections with employers but mostly we start with your own network.

Doug Hoyes:       Put your best foot forward, really.

David Shumaker: Exactly. Helping with interview skills and things like that.

Doug Hoyes:       Yeah. I mean, if I had to apply for a job today – I haven’t applied for a job in, I don’t know, well, at least 20 years because I’ve been – Well, no, it’s probably more like 25 years. So, I don’t know, like I don’t have a résumé that’s up-to-date. I’m pretty sure I could wing it but I don’t know what kind of questions people ask at job interviews. So should my résumé be one page long or ten, should it have pictures on it, should I do little doodles at the top? Is that what employers like? Should I put it on the Internet?

So, I mean, I don’t know any of these kind of things, and I consider myself to be reasonably sophisticated, so I assume there are some basic things like that that, “Hey, we can show you some – You know, here, we’ve got some templates, we’ve got some computers you can use to prepare them.” So I agree that is a pretty tangible thing then that you could help people through, as well as showing them what the end goal is.

So the programs that I’m going to qualify for will be things like, I mean, my example of truck driver school which is an eight-week program, some of the private colleges if I want to become a, you know, maybe a medical assistant or something like that.

David Shumaker: That’s right.

Doug Hoyes:       And then Conestoga College, those would typically be two-year programs?

David Shumaker: Yeah, and that’s a good point. I should have mentioned that earlier. Thanks for that. So it would cover two-year programs or less.

Doug Hoyes:       Two-year programs or less. Okay.

David Shumaker: Yeah. So programs that lead to – So we just talked about truck driving which is, of course, eight weeks and there are some six-week-type programs, but all the way up to two years. So it wouldn’t cover university degrees. We don’t cover four-year programs.

Doug Hoyes:       Gotcha.

David Shumaker: But anything that leads to a certificate or a diploma. So, also, it wouldn’t cover a thing if you just want to take a class. It has to be a course that leads to some end.

Doug Hoyes:       So what if I haven’t finished high school?

David Shumaker: Oh, it’s a good question. So it may or may not matter, depending on the retraining program that you’re interested in. When you go and approach that program then they will do an assessment. They will say, “Yeah, will this person be a success in our program? Yes, no problem,” even if you don’t have a high school diploma. I’ve seen some people go through retraining and they didn’t finish their high school.

But in some cases a person might say, “No, you need to go back and do what’s called upgrading,” okay, so you may need to work on your English a little bit more or your math skills because you’re going into, let’s say, a technical area. In that case, if you qualify, Second Career can cover your BLA and your retraining for those upgrades.

So, in general, Second Career covers up to two years but with upgrading, it could cover up to three years. If you have to go back to Saint Louis, for example, in the area, to finish your high school diploma and then go into your two years.

Doug Hoyes:       Yeah, and if I’m finishing high school, then the cost of high school itself is covered anyway, right?

David Shumaker: Yeah.

Doug Hoyes:       I don’t have to pay to go to high school but the ancillary stuff would then also be covered then?

David Shumaker: Yeah, and we’d have to look at that on an item-by-item basis. That’s right.

Doug Hoyes:       I gotcha.

David Shumaker: But thanks for drawing that out because that’s an important distinction.

Doug Hoyes:       And so what are you seeing in the world right now? I mean, how long have you been doing exactly what you’re doing at this particular job?

David Shumaker: Yes, well, I’ve been at the Working Centre for three years.

Doug Hoyes:       Three years, okay. So have things changed in those three years? Is the economy better or worse? Is it easier to find a job? Are there different kinds of jobs? Have you noticed any trends out there?

David Shumaker: Yeah, that’s a good question. Definitely I think that, as we say at work, that the labour market’s actually very hungry right now.

Doug Hoyes:       Hungry?

David Shumaker: Very hungry. In other words, that there are more jobs in certain sectors than there are people who are applying for them. Keep in mind though that where the labour market’s hungry often is in manufacturing jobs still and –

Doug Hoyes:       That’s interesting because I would think, “Well, everything’s all offshore now, everything’s made in China, there’s no manufacturing. It’s only service jobs here. You can only get a job, you know, working at the coffee shop.” But you’re saying, “No, in this area, in particular, in the Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph area –

David Shumaker: That’s right. It’s not what it used to be certainly many decades ago or even a decade ago.

Doug Hoyes:       But there are –

David Shumaker: With plant closures but there – I’m sorry to interrupt.

Doug Hoyes:       But there are still lots of manufacturing jobs?

David Shumaker: There are manufacturing jobs and also service-sector jobs. It’s also very hungry in that area, yeah.

Doug Hoyes:       So if it’s a manufacturing job, are there specific skills that are required or is it more, “No, we need general labourers. We just need to help you present yourself to get that job.”

David Shumaker: That’s right. So there are many, kind of, entry-level jobs and general labour, machine operator, for example, in those. Yeah.

Doug Hoyes:       And so if my long-term goal is to go to university, so let’s say I’m 40 years old and I was working at the same company for 20 years, they’re no longer around so maybe what I’m going to do is do some interim upgrading, maybe, you know, do some college, take some courses, whatever, but longer term I’d like to go onto university, what advice would you give me? Obviously the Second Career program doesn’t cover university.

David Shumaker: That’s right.

Doug Hoyes:       How can I set the stage for that though, if that’s what I really want to do?

David Shumaker: No, that’s a great question. One, it just starts with conversation and we sit down with the person and talk about short, medium and long-term goals. If you know your long-term goal is to university, okay, then we, kind of, reverse engineer. What do we need to get there? Is it a financial piece? Is it upgrades? You know, you need to finish high school or you never took math and physics in school and now you want to go into, let’s say, the healthcare field where you’ll need those sorts of chemistry, biology, whatever.

We just, kind of, reverse engineer. What is it that you need to get to that long-term goal? And then just offer as many options as possible. For example, if the finances is a piece, then we think about OSAP, you know, the Ontario Student Assistance Program, to take out loans.

Doug Hoyes:       Oh, I see, yeah.

David Shumaker: Or working for a few years to save up money.

Doug Hoyes:       So, again, you’d be my coach to –

David Shumaker: That’s right.

Doug Hoyes:       And I think just figuring out where I’m trying to get to is half the battle a lot of the time.

David Shumaker: I really think so. Really, I mean, this is just a very human issue, right? It’s not just a labour market, it’s not just an economic issue, it’s a human issue.

Doug Hoyes:       It’s real life.

David Shumaker: It’s real life, that’s right. We spend a good part of our lives working so hopefully it’s work that gives us life but also gives life to the world, right? It’s not just about making money. So, yeah, just helping people to, kind of, plumb what are their deep desires? Here’s a chance. Actually unemployment can be a real chance for a person to — especially in mid-age — to really think about what is it that I really have wanted to do but I have been in, kind of, the gristmill and haven’t been able to. So here’s a chance.

Doug Hoyes:       Yeah, you have to look at it as a great opportunity.

David Shumaker: That’s right. That’s right.

Doug Hoyes:       This is fantastic because if my company hadn’t closed down, well, I’d still be there doing that job I, you know, sort of, like but don’t really love it.

David Shumaker: That’s right.

Doug Hoyes:       But now since I’m a free agent why not take this opportunity to truly get a fresh start? So it’s all good from that point of view.

David Shumaker: That’s right.

Doug Hoyes:       So just to clarify then, so Second Career is a program of the Ontario government?

David Shumaker: Yes. So you earlier said “Your program,” but it’s not our program. We’re just one of the many employment Ontario agencies who help –

Doug Hoyes:       Who help support that?

David Shumaker: That’s right. That’s right.

Doug Hoyes:       And so you get funding from donations and other agencies and the government also helps with some of the funding?

David Shumaker: Well, with the employment, the funding comes from the Ontario government.

Doug Hoyes:       Kind of, as part of this program.

David Shumaker: That’s right.

Doug Hoyes:       Because you’re, kind of, serving as the intake group and making sure that people are qualified so it’s obviously simplifying it greatly for the government at the other end.

David Shumaker: We hope so.

Doug Hoyes:       They’re getting people who are qualified, well, as you said, eligible and suitable for it.

David Shumaker: That’s right.

Doug Hoyes:       So that’s what works. And we’ve got a new government in Ontario as of earlier this year — I can’t remember exactly when it was — do you expect any changes in this program or do you expect that, no, it’s going to be there for a while?

David Shumaker: Yeah, I suspect it will be there for a while but technically I don’t know if there are going to be changes.

Doug Hoyes:       You can’t see the future, I understand that.

David Shumaker: Yeah. I will say, though, that it’s, kind of, the nature of this program to change a lot anyway. So even for my co-workers who’ve been doing Second Career for much, much longer than I have and who I rely on because of their expertise, they feel that you never quite have a handle on it because, and in a positive way what happens is the Second Career program is responsive to the needs of people and it’s responsive to the needs of the labour market, so some of the rules change over time.

So oftentimes we’re sending an email or calling over to the Second Career office at MTCU just to clarify if this person might be a good candidate. So some of those rules and some of those requirements do change over time. So I suspect that won’t change, the fact that they change. How the new government will affect that, I can’t say.

Doug Hoyes:       But it’s a constantly evolving program anyways.

David Shumaker: It’s a constantly evolving program. Yeah.

Doug Hoyes:       So that we know it will change. So what final words of advice then do you have for people who are listening, who have gone through a job loss or maybe they’re actually still working but are looking for some kind of retraining, and I know you already gave one piece of advice which was, the more lead time we can have, the better.

David Shumaker: Yes.

Doug Hoyes:       What other types of advice would you give people in that situation?

David Shumaker: Yeah. So I can think of a few. One is just don’t be discouraged. It can be a really discouraging time. I’ve been out of work before and it can be really defeating because so much of our identity is bound up with our work. So really try to surround yourself with supports of people who love and care for you so that you don’t get discouraged, but also really come in and let us help, not only us but also other employment Ontario agencies in town like Agilec or YMCA or Lutherwood. There are a number of really great organizations.

But the two most practical ones, I think, apart from that are when it comes to Second Career specifically is as you’re considering it, number one, don’t assume that you don’t qualify. If after going through and if after hearing what I have to say, you think, “Oh, that doesn’t apply to me,” well don’t automatically make that assumption, because you may.

But the other piece of advice is don’t assume you do qualify. It’s, kind of, the opposite side of the coin, is that some people come in, they have all of these hopes and expectations put on this one program and they find that they’re terribly disappointed when it doesn’t work out because of any number of reasons. So just have a realistic expectation and then let’s work together.

Doug Hoyes:       Yeah, so have an open mind about it.

David Shumaker: Have an open mind about it, yeah.

Doug Hoyes:       So how can people find your organization and you, if they’re looking to start this process?

David Shumaker: Yeah, so the most top-level way is just to go to Ontario.ca and search for Second Career. That gives more information about the Second Career program.

Doug Hoyes:       And that’s the government website?

David Shumaker: That’s the government website. That’s right. Our website is theworkingcentre.org, okay?

Doug Hoyes:       With a the in front of it?

David Shumaker: Theworkingcentre.

Doug Hoyes:       Theworkingcentre.

David Shumaker: And centre is C-E-N-T-R-E. And on that website you’ll see information on all of the different programs that we offer, not only employment-related but also volunteering and others that are really building community in the heart of Kitchener.

Doug Hoyes:       That’s excellent.

David Shumaker: So, yeah, I could also give you a phone number if that’s helpful?

Doug Hoyes:       Yeah, sure. Give us the phone number too.

David Shumaker: Yeah, so it’s 519-743-1151 and that will just take you to our host desk and they can direct you to where you need to go.

Doug Hoyes:       Excellent. Well, I’ll put links to all of those things in the show notes.

David Shumaker: Perfect.

Doug Hoyes:       David, thanks very much for being here.

David Shumaker: Thank you very much, Doug, I appreciate it.

Doug Hoyes:       Thank you. Now, you did mention about debt and how the Second Career program doesn’t cover debt, so if you’ve got credit card debt, if you’ve got a car loan, it’s not going to cover that. So I’ve got a few tips for people who are dealing with debt while they’re going through a retraining period.

So number one would be, if you’re able to, keep up with the minimum payments, so that will avoid future problems with your credit report. So obviously you’ll be like, great to pay off all your debt but, well, if that’s not possible then at the very least keep up with the minimums.

Secondly, I would say prioritize your debt. So, you know, which debts are the most important if you don’t have money? So clearly, you know, paying your rent, you know, maybe your mortgage, maybe your car payments are going to be priorities. You don’t want to lose your car if you’re going to need it for work so that might be something that you prioritize.

You may also want to use any grace periods that you’ve got. So some mortgages, for example, may allow you to skip a payment. Obviously that’s okay for a short period. It’s not great for a long term and you’ll need to have a plan to get back on track after the fact. And, you know, I certainly don’t recommend paying a lot of money for loan insurance but if you’re already got loan insurance that covers a job loss, well, now would be the time obviously to use it.

Number four would be to talk with the people you owe money to, so get on the phone with them and say, “Hey, look, I’m not working right now, can you give me a break on the interest? Can you lower my monthly payments? Can I defer a payment or two?” They may not say yes but if you don’t ask you definitely won’t get any help with that.

These are all certainly good tips for a short period of time. So as we talked about with the truck driver program that I can start in two months, well, maybe if I can, you know, keep things together for a couple of months, get through the program, then I’ll be fine. If it’s going to be a longer period of time than that, then perhaps some of these suggestions aren’t going to be as applicable.

In any case, and you’re probably already doing this, cut back on any unnecessary expenses. You don’t want to be getting into any further debt if that’s not possible, and if you’re in a situation where, yup, I’m going to go through a retaining and it’s going to take a period of time, but I’ve got all this debt and I don’t want people calling and taking me to court and threatening me with wage garnishments – And of course wage garnishments aren’t a problem if you’re not working. There are no wages to garnishee but once you start working again, well, then you’ve got a potential problem. Great, I’ve got this new job, I’m making all this money, but unfortunately a couple of my creditors got judgments against me and now they’re in a position to start garnishing my wages.

Well, as you said, you want to be proactive. I think it’s the same with debt. You want to talk to a licensed insolvency trustee at the start of the process, not the end, because it may be possible to do something during the retraining period. For example, the answer might be, well, I’m going to be in school for the next year, why don’t I go bankrupt now, eliminate all the debts, my income is low and because the cost of bankruptcy is based on your income, the perfect time to go bankrupt is when your income is low.

Now that may not be the correct answer. For some people, when they’re not working, they don’t have any money or whatever money they have has to go to things like rent and food, so maybe a bankruptcy doesn’t make sense. Why pay money to protect yourself when you don’t need the protection yet? But, again, by meeting with someone in debt at the start, we can say, “Well, maybe the answer for you is to do a bankruptcy now. Maybe the answer is to do a proposal once you’re working again. Maybe there’s some other option.” But being proactive, I think, is always the answer, so that way you know what the plan is going to be, because you also made the comment that there’s a lot of stress. You know, our identity is tied up with our job and so when I’ve got a whole lot of debt, and I don’t have a job, I’m really, really stressed out.

Well, you’re helping with the job piece. Okay, we’ve got a plan. You’re not going to have a job tomorrow but we’ve got this plan for retraining, there is light at the end of the tunnel and I think it’s the same with debt. We’ve got a plan and it may take a period of time to execute, it may be better to wait, it may be better to do something right now but by thinking through it in advance, we can come up with the right plan.

So that would be my advice for dealing with debt. So there you go. That’s our show for today. We’ll have a full transcript and links to everything we talked about today, including how you can find David and The Working Centre here in Kitchener, and similar resources for people in other areas. That’ll be over at hoyes.com. That’s H-O-Y-E-S.com. Thanks for listening. Until next week, I’m Doug Hoyes. That was Debt Free in 30.

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