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5 Hot Spots for Free Career Training

5 Hot Spots for Free Career Training

By Siri Anderson

Are you looking for a job, a promotion or trying to negotiate a higher salary? Your success will most likely depend on the answer to one question: do you have the skills to pay your employer's bills?

Though years of experience and a positive attitude are important, education is also important for career development. Staying current on your skills is invaluable. Highly-skilled people stand out. Because of this and our economic situation, people are heading back to school in droves to brush up for the future.

Are you worried about paying tuition? Don't be. If you know where to look, you can find free career training. Here are five alternative and absolutely free ways to keep your job skills up-to-date.

1. Online Career Training. Information sources continue to explode on the Web, and online jobs skills training programs are a good way to use the Internet to improve job skills. There are countless courses out there that offer free enrollment for online career training - but "buyer" beware: their quality can range from first-class to a complete waste of time. One excellent career training site is operated by the Goodwill Community Foundation, GCFLearnFree.org. This site, which focuses on vocational and technology training, has received top ratings for its extremely accessible and well-designed career training courses for adult learners of all levels and abilities. Many courses are accredited by IACET (International Association for Continuing Education and Training) and offer certificates for successful completion. You can even register for online career training courses led by a qualified instructor - all at no cost. "There are a lot of places of instruction out there, but not a lot of places where you can find this quality of training for free," says Steve Snyderman, spokesperson for GCFLearnFree.org. "It's always updated, always quality, always there, and it's always free."

2. Open Career Training Seminars and Lectures. Next time you're near a local community college or university, keep your eyes peeled for lectures and seminars that can help shine up your job skills. As a leading example, Pace University has presented a series of free career training seminars that were open to the public, called "Managing Your Career in a Down Economy" with the follow-up session "Learning Lab for Job Preparedness in the New Economy." According to Jody Queen-Hubert, executive director of Co-op and Career Services at Pace, learning institutions want to be seen as responsive resources that are relevant, on top of current trends and able to be resourceful to the community. Offering lectures, career support and job information are common ways they'll do this. "People absolutely should be looking to their colleges and universities to see what they can tap into for career services and training," says Queen-Hubert, "We are not an ivory tower."

3. Career Training Podcasts, Webinars and Blogs. If you haven't already, it's time to jump on the Web 2.0 bandwagon. Job trends and in-demand skills are in flux, and nothing can get you the most cutting-edge information faster or easier than these new media info sources. "In my [field], technology and business are changing at a faster pace than the design principles and methodologies I practice every day, so I tend to track blogs...pretty regularly to keep up on the tech landscape," says Seattle-based, user-experience designer Scott Neilson. In addition to blogs, many organizations publish podcasts or host webinars as a service to their industry. Ben Crosby, national recruiting manager for iSymmetry, said his company noticed the current need in the IT community for specialized job searching strategies and so created a free, five-part podcast series called "How to Land an IT Job in a Down Market." Using iTunes or any search engine, you can easily find this series as well as other podcasts and blogs that suit your career training needs.

4. Government Resources for Career Training. Though most people don't know it, every state has funds to support career training, both for the unemployed and those who just want to improve their job skills and expand their career goals. "It's unbelievable to me how many people think to claim unemployment but don't take advantage of all the other services their state offers," says Kris Linderoth, WorkSource employment and career training expert for the State of Washington. Programs are often federally funded, organized at the state level and commonly found at community colleges, universities, workforce training offices and public libraries. Every state has its own spin on how it uses funds. However, according to Linderoth, "wherever you live, you should be able to type into a search engine 'your state' and 'workforce development,' and that should lead you to information on what your state offers."

5. Career Training Through Volunteering/Internships. Though no one wants to hear that they should work for free, volunteering your time may help to season your resume with much-needed practical career training - some job skills just can't be learned as well in a classroom or through coursework, and employers know this all too well. "If it wasn't for that [internship] experience, there's less chance I would have been hired for my first job in non-profit development," said Kymberly Blackstock, now a development manager for an Anchorage-based organization, "and because of that experience, I was able to leverage a higher starting salary." Free career training is what a good volunteer or intern position offers, all while you plant your foot in the door of a potential employer. Don't get stuck sealing envelopes, though - make sure that you're both learning and using marketable skills to ensure your volunteered time is well spent.

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