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Reentering the Workforce After Months on Unemployment

The pandemic has hit us all hard. Being unemployed affects your confidence and self-esteem. The “new normal” means some jobs may be lost permanently, posing unique concerns for people reentering the workforce after a long absence.

If your industry’s been hurt, it’s the perfect time to consider training for that new career at a vocational school. But do employers value online education? Will a certificate from a vocational school hybrid program look as good on a résumé?

The good news for today’s students is that employers now think differently about online learning than they did a decade ago, acknowledging its advantages.

COVID-19 and Unemployment

If you’re unemployed because of the pandemic, you’re not alone. According to the Pew Research Center, more people lost their jobs during three months of COVID-19 lockdowns than in the Great Recession (2007 to 2009).

A Congressional Research Service report shows that people without a post-high school education were affected the most. As businesses adapt, the unemployment rate is improving slowly, but the future is uncertain.

Industries that were struggling before the pandemic, including retail stores and restaurants, are at the forefront of losses, and many workers will have to retrain for other careers. Vocational schools are responding with hybrid programs that target growing fields from health care to computers. With safety precautions in place, students can start now.

Reentering the Workforce After a Long Absence

If you’re ready to get back to work, but it’s been a while, issues you may face include these.

Gaps in Your Résumé

Gaps in résumés once spelled doom for job seekers. Employers scrutinized absences of more than a few months, assuming that candidates had been denied work because their skills were rusty or they got an unfavorable reference from a prior supervisor.

Today, when employers question gaps in employment, be prepared to explain absences, not hide them. However, COVID-19 related unemployment is so common that they now carry less weight in the hiring process.

Of course, some industries, such as computer networking, change so rapidly that your skills could be outdated after a year out of work, so it’s helpful to show how you’ve stayed on top of changes in your field. If you’ve taken courses or maintained memberships in professional organizations, work it into your résumé.


Confidence and self-esteem take a tumble after months out of work. There’s a stigma to being unemployed. You may doubt your own abilities and even wonder if you can still do the job.

Having to remarket yourself is especially difficult if you’re older or were employed in a position long-term. Much of people’s self-esteem is built upon their workplace contributions.

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Shifting Job Markets

Workplaces are evolving. Fast food businesses shifted to take-out only, and the medical assistant who once worked exclusively in a doctor’s office may now serve remote medical facilities.

Businesses have reinvented themselves, and the most flexible are thriving. But that also means an adjustment for staff who may no longer work the same hours or in the same places as they once expected.

Driving to an office for a nine-to-five day will no longer be the norm. The pandemic’s taught businesses that profitability lies in working smarter, not harder. As a job applicant, you’ll have to reconsider old expectations and be willing to meet changing market needs.

Stiff Competition

If you have a job, you’re lucky. As unemployment benefits run out, many highly qualified candidates will be competing for new openings. You’ll likely face rejection as you compete with record numbers of applicants for the same positions. It will feel like you’re starting over again.

Confidence and perseverance are keys to success, but you can make yourself more attractive as a job candidate by gaining new skills through education. Technological advancements were making many jobs obsolete before the pandemic, and the workforce must adapt.

Hybrid Learning Programs

The pandemic has been challenging for schools, yet the lessons learned are valuable. They’ve embraced new ways of doing things, including a shift to remote learning. Online education has been growing as a trend for decades now, so expanding options for off-campus education was a natural evolution.

Since some vocational programs require hands-on training and real-world practice, some on-campus time is required. But listening to lectures from home not only reduces students’ and staff’s exposure to illness, but it’s also convenient, flexible, and cost-effective. These hybrid learning programs have been a surprising cure for more than one problem.

Here are some of the qualities of hybrid learning.

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Lifestyle Friendly

Research from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that 20 percent of those unemployed can’t work because schools have closed and they have no childcare.

If you’ve always wanted to be a web designer, for instance, the most obvious benefit of a hybrid vocational school program is its flexibility. You can listen, read, and study from home while taking care of personal obligations. Limited on-site requirements are a better fit for busy schedules while still offering the necessary practical training. It’s a lifestyle-friendly approach that lets you get ahead.


Virtual platforms allow students and instructors to meet face-to-face. You’ll get the same individual attention as you would in a classroom, sharing ideas and collaborating with peers.

You’ll still make friends and create networking opportunities, so when you visit campus, no one will be a stranger. Students in hybrid programs also have access to online forums to help each other through the learning process.


Hybrid learning is convenient, but it’s as comprehensive as traditional programs. You’ll get the same quality education and the same number of credit hours, critical for a certification or licensure.

There are no shortcuts, and students are never shortchanged. Graduates have confidence in their skills.

What Do Employers Think About Hybrid Program Graduates?

Online education was first introduced in the 1990s, but employers were slow to acknowledge its legitimacy despite its popularity. It was a new concept, so graduates’ credentials were often seen as inferior.

But, as businesses were forced to adapt to the internet, they learned from first-hand experience that online vocational programs are as stringent as their traditional counterparts, and their confidence grew. Today, most employers value not only online credentials, but they also recognize the many benefits that come with them.

Benefit 1—Strong Skills

Employers know graduates of hybrid programs have had hands-on experience on campus and through externships, so they’re fully trained in the latest skills and prepared to go on day one.

Benefit 2—Tech Savvy

Students in hybrid programs don’t learn just about technology, they use it. Businesses with a strong online presence understand the value of tech savvy employees and the experience they’ve gained using computer equipment and virtual platforms.

Changes in the way the world does business means more companies are adopting these complex technologies, so team members who don’t require training and can serve as mentors to others are valuable assets.

Benefit 3—Self-Starter

Going back to work after a week’s vacation is hard. Reentering the workforce after a year or more can feel nearly impossible.

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After forging new habits at home, returning to a group environment where you’re working with others on a schedule is intimidating.

A certificate from a hybrid vocational school program demonstrates motivation, a quality that employers appreciate. Today’s self-starters are tomorrow’s leaders and sound investments for growing businesses.

Benefit 4—Well Organized

Online education is ideal for students with other responsibilities. Most cite practical reasons for choosing remote learning, such as needing to work to pay living expenses or reducing childcare bills.

Employers recognize that students juggling demands at home and in school has to be well-organized, and they must manage their time effectively to be successful and maintain the skills they hope will transfer to the workplace.

Benefit 5—Responsible

Going to school requires personal commitment. Students must accept responsibility for their own learning online, logging on during lectures, participating in group discussions, and submitting assignments on time without continual prompts from instructors. Success in a hybrid program points to graduates’ ability to stay on task and meet deadlines with little supervision.

Benefit 6—Determination to Succeed

During a pandemic, no one could blame someone for taking time off, but the longer people are out of the workforce, the more difficult it is to return.

Only someone determined to succeed will trade in unemployment for education and a job. It’s a loud and clear statement to potential employers that you’re ready to work hard for success.

Final Thoughts

Hybrid education programs are creating new opportunities for people who’ve been out of the workforce. If you weren’t happy in your last job, now is the time to consider something new. Education is the ideal way to fill gaps in your résumé, boost your self-esteem, and prepare you for a better, more secure future.

Are you looking to excel in a hybrid program at your local vocational school? At Hunter Business School, our professional, career focused technical school programs, developed with industry input and adapted to the 21st century workplace, will provide vocational school students on Long Island with the technical skills and abilities they need in the health care, business, and technical professions.

See the Top Ten Reasons for choosing Hunter Business School.

Contact us today to find out more about how to become a vocational school graduate on Long Island.