Changing careers in a pandemic


LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Up until December, Paul Matula worked as a consultant, developing and implementing training for companies across the country and making good money.

The traveling got to him, and he decided to change careers in January, for something he thought would be more stable.

“I could be out there for sometimes up to five weeks at a time,” said Matula. “So it began to be too much, especially since my wife and I just got married two years ago.”

He started taking classes to become an electrician, taking a pay cut for more reliable work close to home.

“I started in, I believe it was, mid-January. I applied for jobs, and by March, I had a job opportunity lined up.”

But then, the shutdowns began. Even as businesses slowly opened back up, his offer was gone.

“I want to have a job so I can keep up the skills I’ve begun to learn and have income, but I haven’t been able to get any work.”

A career fair in Forest on Thursday saw at least two people hired on the spot, according to the country chamber, but unemployment in the area is still around 8.6%, depending on the locality.

“The pandemic is going to reshape our workforce,” said Tim Saunders with the Virginia Careerwork Central Region. “There will still be jobs available in our community, but you may have to move into something that you weren’t necessarily thinking about doing before.”

Ironically for Matula, his previous work is taking off due to new training that needs to be implemented during the pandemic.

“Now I’m seeing that a lot of the work I had been doing, at least consulting wise, is rising again, especially with contract tracing,” he said. “That lines up pretty closely with what I had been doing in terms of training them.”

Long term, Matula still plans to become an electrician.

“In the meantime, any work is better than no work. So applying for anything that’s available that fits in my skillset.”

Applying, with no response.

“It feels like everything is just going against you.”

To help those changing careers at this time, Virginia Career Works launched a program to pay for classes in manufacturing and health care.

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