Organization helps to employ educated, skilled workers

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Is it possible for something to be, ‘In transition,’ for a quarter of a century? Evidently so.

In the 1980s, Damien Birkel had moved down from Cleveland with hopes of a career in textiles as Sara Lee, in Winston-Salem. Then he lost that job – what he didn’t realize was, how many people ended up in the same position: educated, skilled … and out of work.

Judie Holcomb-Pack was one of them.

“Working in marketing, most of my career, I had a little black cloud over my head in that every four years, I lost my job,” says Judie.

When the realization hit Damien, he started an organization called, Professionals in Transition. That was in February of 1992, after he’d gotten another job and was still working full time but wanted to help people who were in his same position.

“Professionals in Transition is one of the oldest, continuous support groups running in the United States,” notes Damien.

Most support groups fold up when the economy gets better, but not Professionals in Transition because they saw the unemployment wheel was moving.

“It used to be sixty and it was very difficult to get a job and then it went down to fifty,” notes Judie. ‘Well, I've got friends in their 40s who cannot find a job, right now.”

But the organization has changed with the times.

“I think what has changed is how sophisticated the job search has become,” says Damien. ‘Twenty-five years ago, all you had to have was a good resume and a lot of shoe leather.”

And is as necessary as ever.

“Anybody that tells you age discrimination does not exist is lying,” says Damien.

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