By M.L. Dehm HBJ Freelance Writer
LYNNWOOD — For nearly 25 years, the YWCA has offered employment classes to both men and women in Snohomish County. But instructor and employment specialist Brenda Patrykus believes that many of the people who could be helped by the free Pathways to Work program may not know of its existence.
“The people that I serve are usually having to change their whole career paths or they’ve been unemployed for a long period of time,” Patrykus said. “Or they need to re-enter the workplace after a long period of being a homemaker.”
In fact, one of Patrykus’ current clients is making a return to the workforce after 45 years at home.
Patrykus also helps men who are looking for work, although they make up just 5 percent of the clients she serves. They range in age from about 22 to 70 and come from a variety of backgrounds and experience levels.
The one thing all her clients have in common is a desire to obtain lasting employment in a field that interests them. This is where Pathways to Work can help.
The workshops are designed to be a series, Patrykus said. Classes are sequenced to build upon each other in a logical progression. But clients don’t have to take them in order or attend every class. Her only requirement is that they must attend the two most important classes — interviews and resumes.
“If they take all of the classes, we do a whole range of subjects,” Patrykus said. “The very first that we do is a career inventory assessment to find out what you want to be when you grow up.”
It may sound like a joke, but Patrykus said it’s not uncommon for people to want to change careers because they’ve lost their interest in a particular field.
“Things I was interested in doing at 18 I’m sure not interested in doing at the age of 60,” she said.
Industries and technologies can change, too. Employees can find themselves out of a job if their position is eliminated or outsourced. Patrykus is working with a man who is employed by a small publishing company that has been hit hard by recent changes in its industry.
“A lot of the little papers that they used to do publishing for have gone out of business or been bought up by bigger papers,” Patrykus said.
Sometimes people want to change careers because a disability has made it impossible to continue in their chosen field. Or they may be looking for a job with better benefits, wages and security.
“The next class that we do after we do the assessment is exploring our barriers because almost all of us have a barrier,” Patrykus said.
It’s important to deal with those barriers because they can limit employment options and ongoing employment. Getting hired can be easy. Actually maintaining the job if a person can’t show up every day and work well might be the bigger challenge.
Barriers can include lack of training or computer skills, lack of child care or limited transportation. Patrykus encourages clients who have a car but no license or insurance to get those things sorted out before they go out to a job interview. If they have no transportation, she suggests they find suitable housing on a bus line first.
Clients also need to find supportive child care if that’s the issue. If clients lack job skills, they need to know where to go to learn them. Identifying and dealing with barriers means that they can be put aside so job seekers can concentrate on their strengths and find meaningful employment.
“We also explore the values and support systems that we all have in place and look at skills and abilities that we have amassed through other careers, volunteer opportunities and life skills,” Patrykus said. “After that we do goal setting to find out where you want to go.”
There is also a home-based business workshop in the series that features a guest speaker who talks about her own entrepreneurship. Many people who can’t find work in corporate fields start home businesses, Patrykus said. People tend to get creative during tough economic times.
She also has a mental health counselor visit the classroom to discuss managing stress, anger and change — all of the things that frequently go on in people’s lives when they are unemployed.
Patrykus finishes her workshops with advice about where to find additional services. One that clients often appreciated is the Working Wardrobe program where low-income women receive clothes suitable for work or interviews at no charge.
Patrykus teaches classes all over Snohomish County. She is in Everett on Mondays, Lynnwood on Tuesdays, Stanwood on Wednesdays and Everett and Monroe on Thursdays.
For more information, call Patrykus at 425-258-2766 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.