Two years ago, Tom Doering thought there was a downside to sticking with a job he knew well and decided to do something about it.
At last night's commencement ceremony at Owens Community College, he and other graduates started putting their decisions to work, taking the first steps toward new careers and additional education.
Graduating with degrees were 571 students, including 75 from the Findlay-area campus. About half of them will go on for more education. Some 4,000 people attended the program at the Student Health and Activities Center on Oregon Road.
Working full time at the Kroger Co., while attending a two-year program taught jointly by Owens staff and FirstEnergy representatives, Mr. Doering completed an associate's degree in technical studies, ready to accept a job as a lineman with the utility.
“I already had a decent job,” he said while suiting up in his cap and gown. “This is a better job. You don't get anywhere standing still.” The 39-year-old man had worked 20 years at Kroger.
He won't know officially for several weeks if he will be hired by FirstEnergy, but school officials said most who complete the program are successful.
Landing a lineman's job would effectively double his earnings, a welcome outcome for his wife, 2 children, and 2 stepchildren. While juggling his job and schooling, they saw little of him over the last two years.
Until resigning recently from Kroger, he earned $13.61 an hour. In a few years at FirstEnergy, he expects his pay to go to about $25 an hour.
“The biggest part is I wanted to do something different,” he said. “I thought if I stayed [at Kroger] a couple more years, I would probably never leave.”
But he also was aware that stiffer retail grocery competition might make for tough times for people in his line of work.
“With [a job as a lineman], I can go anywhere in the country and make a decent living,” he said.
With rising unemployment, the search for work by Owens graduates is taking longer in some fields, Gentry Dixon, student alumni placement coordinator at Owens, said.
“It depends on the area,” she said. “Is it exactly what they want? Sometimes it may take more time and effort. It can't be just looking at The Blade ads and do a search. It means networking and talking to people you know. Those are some of the key things.”
Mr. Doering seems already to have absorbed one of the themes of last night's commencement speaker, James Hoffman, president of KeyBank's Northwest Ohio District.
Having a good job is a foundation to a good life, Mr. Hoffman said.
“What you want is a job that complements and fits in with the other parts of your life, is rewarding, satisfying, and fun, and will provide you the income and security needed by you and your family,” he said.