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Job Retraining May Help You Stay Afloat

What can you do when you work in an industry that's losing jobs -- jobs that may never return?

You may want to think about "retraining" -- learning what you need to know to find a new job, in a more prosperous, growing industry.

But how long does it take, and when is retraining the right choice?

On The Early Show Saturday, personal finance contributor Vera Gibbons shared plenty of advice on retooling to put yourself in a better position.

According to Gibbons:

There have been more than 500,000 job cuts so far this year. That's an increase of more than 20 percent over the same period last year, and the outlook is very weak through much of next year. There's been very slow economic growth this year, and it's expected there won't be enough to spur job growth next year, either.

Some industries have been hit harder than others, and it's possible that many jobs are gone for good. There's been a shift in the United States from jobs that produce goods to those that provide services. That's a trend that's been in play for decades. So, while there've been gains in areas such as health care, engineering, management consulting, accounting, education, and legal services, there've been losses in textiles, printing businesses, automotive, apparel and other industries. Those jobs are gone because of foreign competition and new technology.

Many people find they're forced to do something new, so they're doing one of three things: taking on work they're over-qualified to do (a lot of people right now are under-employed); pursuing their passions or turning hobbies into careers; or retraining -- heading back to school to learn what they need to try their hand at a new career.

For instance, people have been moving out of residential construction and into "green" construction: solar panel installers, energy auditors, etc. Training in these fields can take up to about six months, depending on the program. Biotech is also blooming, and you're looking at about five months of classes in math, biology and chemistry to become lab technicians or quality control technicians, for instance.

Healthcare is another area to consider: nurses, pharmaceutical technicians, respiratory therapists, jobs in health information, and managing medical records, for example. Generally, it takes a couple of years to move into those fields. There's also the legal industry, but you'll need an associate's degree to become a paralegal, and that can take a couple of years.

If you're retraining or considering it, you need to do plenty of research: You may have an unrealistic image of what a job involves. Talk to employers, recruiters, and people in the industry who can give you an objective view, who can tell you what kind of training you need. Who knows, maybe some of your skills are transferable?! People tend to underestimate the value of their existing talents. Spend a week or so shadowing someone, so you get a real feel for the job. Test the waters. Better to waste a week of your life than four years of your life on a course or in a program that you end up hating and have invested in.