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Millions Have Quit Their Jobs During The 'Great Resignation'; But Where Are The Workers Going?

Originally published Jan. 4, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - A record number of American workers have joined the "Great Resignation."

According to the latest jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.5 million people quit their jobs in November. Many of them work in the hospitality or health care industries. During the same month, 6.7 million people were hired.

So where are the workers going? WCCO's Jeff Wagner learned remaining unemployed is rarely the end goal.

After years in the restaurant industry, Colette Graack left her duties in the food prep line in June 2021 in exchange for a deeper role as mom.

"I just couldn't handle keeping on that pressure when my son needed me more," Graack said.

Her son has autism and needs constant care, a job she will soon take as she trains to be his personal care assistant. Graack said taking the leap was difficult.

"Especially financially because I'm a single mom. Thankfully I had a savings at the time that we could ride that out," she said.

Her concerns are likely shared by many Americans who left the workforce recently. Despite millions quitting, millions more found new jobs. So where are they going? Often, it's a different industry all together.

"This notion that if you leave one industry, going to a new one requires, you know, a degree or a bunch of training, it might not be the case," said Steve Grove, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. "The reality is today, whether it's the state, whether it's a college, whether it's your future employer, there is a ton of support and free training available to make that shift."

Kitchen Grill, Restaurant Generic, Great Resignation
(credit: CBS)

That's happening at Anoka Ramsey Community College, where the state is paying for students to become Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA). The tuition, books, scrubs and certification test are free.

"Oh, it means a lot!" said a student named Tracy. "No money out of my pocket."

She already works in healthcare but wants to advance her skills as the industry struggles to find workers. Others in the class ranged from those with culinary to carpentry backgrounds.

"I just see a big demand for more nursing assistants in the nursing homes, in the hospitals," she said. "I can see myself doing this part time, helping out whenever needed."

The "Great Resignation" is also comprised of workers retiring early. Experts say that's creating opportunities for others to leave jobs with low pay or tough hours in order to climb the ladder sooner than expected.

"There are jobs in manufacturing, jobs in construction, jobs in healthcare that have huge career potential, a lot of growth opportunities and opportunities to make a much higher wage than you might have made previous to COVID," Grove said.

The two industries seeing the biggest gains in Minnesota are manufacturing and construction. Grove said on-the-job training is a big reason for that.

Despite being initially worried about leaving the restaurant industry, Graack has no regrets for her career change. It's led to less stress and more time with her son.

"It's like getting to know him all over again," she said.

To learn more about the CNA training program that the state of Minnesota is funding for students, click here.

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