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Corporate Education Center Trains Displaced Professionals in New Skills

To date, about 800 unemployed or underemployed people have passed through Stony Brook's CET program, with many finding new positions.

Since 2009, a Stony Brook University program has been helping displaced professionals update their skill sets and certifications to help them along in their job searches – with a job placement rate of more than 40 percent.

The program, called "Transitional Professional Certificate Program: Wall Street and Beyond," means 7-1/2 days of intense work: in it, displaced professionals come together to study subjects such as project management, business analysis, and lean operations in a rigorous, hands-on setting.

But for Gayle Bassi, it was well worth it. The Setauket mother of two, who was laid off from her job in July, said not only did she gain a refreshed skill set, but she also networked her way to dynamic new connections in the process.

"It’s actually been very positive, because sometimes when you’re searching for work it’s very isolating," Bassi said. "People do lose hope. So keeping in connection with other people and being able to enhance my skills ... has been a very positive, uplifting experience."

Bassi is one of 58 displaced professionals who celebrated their "graduation" from the program last week. About 800 people have completed the program since its inception in 2009, with more than 40 percent of graduates getting hired by companies such as IBM, The Paradigm Group, Motorola, JP Morgan Chase, Met Life, Verve Living Systems, Arrow Electronics, Thomsen Reuters, and more.

Such training fills a critical need in today's economy, according to Yacov Shamash, Stony Brook's vice president of economic development.

"It’s great to have research, it’s great to have all the products in the world," he said. "But if you don’t have the people to work on those products, if you don’t have the people to manage them, you can’t go anywhere."

According to New York State Department of Labor data, Suffolk County's unemployment rate is 8.3 percent as of July 2012, up from 7.5 percent in July of 2011. Those numbers don't include those who are underemployed – meaning people who are working only a few hours a week – or who are discouraged and have given up searching for a new position.

The program at Stony Brook is supported by both state and local grants via the Department of Labor and various Workforce Investment boards; participants must apply for those grants, which then cover the cost of the training. The program is administered through the university's Corporate Education and Training center.

At the end of the training, many go on to take exams for professional certifications. For Anthony Charles of Bellport, who found out about the program through his own research, the program prepared him to take the PMP (project management professional) exam. Now, armed with a new certification along with new skills and connections, he has renewed confidence.

"Working with the state and working with the Stony Brook team was an excellent mix of experience and knowledge," said Charles, who has worked in the fields of programming, systems support, and engineering. "I found it to be extremely rewarding."

Yves Michel, deputy director of the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency, called continuous career training such as this "the only way to get out of this economy."

"We need to maintain this level of knowledge that we have," he said. "It’s a mature workplace, a seasoned workplace."

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