School was never easy for me. So when I decided to go back over two decades after I graduated high school, it was a hard decision. At the same time, I knew I had to. My job as a cashier helped me pay the bills and take care of my two kids, but it wasn’t enough. I was desperate for a change.
Earlier this year my employer, Crosby Pharmacy, needed to hire more pharmacy technicians. It’s hard to find people to work in our rural North Dakota town. At the time my mom was my boss and she encouraged me to apply for the position. I wasn’t qualified but with my mom’s and other managers’ support, I raised my hand. To my surprise, the company agreed to help me enroll in and pay for an online certificate through MedCerts.
Making that decision changed everything for me. It was the first time an employer helped me. In the past, the people I worked for wanted me to stay in the same place. It was frustrating! You give so much of your time but they don’t care about you. They only do what works for them. So people like me get stuck in low-paying jobs with no options to get something better.
I think some employers are afraid that if they help people learn new things those employees will leave for other jobs. But having the support of my managers has made me want to stay at Crosby Pharmacy for as long as I can. And I’m not alone. Many people are more likely to stay at their job when they’re given the chance to learn new skills.
Going back to school has also helped me to find my calling. I’ve always wanted to help people but didn’t understand how to turn that into a career. As a pharmacy tech, I get to help people manage their health by getting them the medication they need. I love that! It fills me with hope and inspires me every day.
There are lots of people like me. About four out of ten people over 25 years old only have a high school diploma. But there’s not a lot of help for us. When you don’t go to college, the world forgets about you. I was lucky enough to have an amazing mom and caring managers in my corner. Not everyone has that so they get stuck earning less money forever. That’s why I’d like to see:
- Support for learning skills in high school and paths that don’t include college. If I could have enrolled in a certificate program earlier or known college isn’t the only path to having a career, my life might have turned out differently.
- Employers, schools, and online program providers share more information about the programs that exist. If my employer hadn’t told me about MedCerts, I may have never known about it!
- Employers who want to help their employees. More companies should give their employees encouragement, time, and financial help to learn new skills. They’ll create people who are really loyal to the company.
- Financial assistance built for adults. Many scholarships and government financial aid programs are meant for high school students. Adults need help too.
- Coaching and counseling made for adult learners. In my program, there are people I can contact. They understand that I’m not a teenager and can help me get through my unique challenges.
Before I started taking my classes I felt stuck. I wanted to change my life but I didn’t know how to do it. The opportunity to learn something new changed everything. If the changes I list above could be made, more people could get better paying jobs and live their dreams.
By Naomi Kateley
Naomi Kateley is a mom hoping to become a pharmacy tech. She lives in Crosby, North Dakota.