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Voc Rehab and employment


#1

Hi, Katheryne,

I was, until recently, a Rehab client in California. Maybe you
aren’t looking for this kind of advice, but your email sent up red
flags for me. Doing the research and convincing a counselor that
you can get a job in the industry is the easy part. There are a
couple of government sites (I no longer have the links) which may
still claim that there will be growth in the industry, and which
will detail various job categories and qualifications. I printed
those out, then called some local jewelers and interviewed
them–they tended to be amazingly generous with their time.

However. If you are a Rehab client, you, like me, have some kind of
disability. Bench work is grueling, and you need to be fast, as well
as good. Trade school is also grueling for a beginner, and it can
move faster than you might be able to imagine. Many, many people go
through Rehab-sponsored trainings of all kinds and never get jobs,
if for no other reason than that they come out of the training
dazed and confused, rather than ready for work.

If you are young, ambitious, have lots of stamina and dexterity,
have taken some jewelry classes (so that you already have basic
skills–I don’t mean beading!–and know something about what you
will be doing), and your disability is such that you know it
won’t interfere with your work, go for it. If, however, you do not
have all of the above, please consider seriously what you expect to
get from going to trade school. If what you want is to set up your
own studio at home, and make jewelry on the side, and you’d like
Rehab to fund the learning you want, that’s one thing. If you’re
trying to convince yourself, as well as your counselor, that you
will be be able, straight out of trade school, to get hired as a
full time bench jeweler, you may be setting yourself up for
frustration, if not heartbreak.

I was very lucky in that the jewelers I interviewed all said that I
should continue my studies at the local art center, or via tutoring,
for at least a year before I jumped into trade school. (Rehab went
for this–although they wouldn’t pay class fees–and I was actually
able to drag out the time considerably.) But I spoke to most of
those jewelers on the phone, and didn’t mention my age. I didn’t
think so at the time, but the luckiest thing that happened to me
was going to SNAG in San Francisco and meeting Alan Revere, after
he did his presentation on “making it in metal.” Honestly and
generously (because he lost quite a bit of money by doing so), he
told me that, at my age, I would not be able to find an entry-level
job as a bench jeweler, no matter how good my training was–or how
many people had been hired in the last 6 months by the jewelry
industry.

This forced me to reevaluate my plans. I had a brief period of
hoping that, if I got Rehab to send me to GIA (which they also
would have approved) and became a GG instead, I could get a job.
But Daniel Spirer convinced me that doing so wouldn’t make me any
more employable than bench training would: I would still be a
beginner, and gemologist jobs go to people with experience. If you,
however, have been an amateur gemologist for years, this could be
a more viable, and less physically taxing, route to employment in
the industry. (Please, please, don’t fall for the GIA ads that
imply you can get a job as a “jewelry designer.” Those jobs are as
rare as hen’s teeth.)

I did, however, manage to get Rehab to pay for tools, materials, and
related expenses for a few years and this eventually enabled me to
make some self-employment income (even when I demonstrated that I
could sell my own jewelry, they wouldn’t shift me to a self-
employment plan, because I couldn’t prove that I could make all of
my living that way–I couldn’t!). I hope that, in the future, I
will be able to bring in somewhat larger percentage of my income
via this route. But I have no fantasy that there is an “industry
job” in my future–unless I parlay my small-business management
experience, and my Orchid-honed ability to talk like an insider,
into a job managing a jewelry store.

Good luck!

Lisa Orlando
Aphrodite’s Ornaments


#2
    This forced me to reevaluate my plans. I had a brief period of
hoping  that, if I got Rehab to send me to GIA (which they also
would have  approved) and became a GG instead, I could get a job.
But Daniel  Spirer convinced me that doing so wouldn't make me any
more  employable than bench training would: I would still be a
beginner,  and gemologist jobs go to people with experience. If
you, however,  have been an amateur gemologist for years, this
*could* be a more  viable, and less physically taxing, route to
employment in the  industry. (Please, please, don't fall for the
GIA ads that imply you  can get a job as a "jewelry designer."
Those jobs are as rare as  hen's teeth.) 

I’d just like to add my own experience to bolster what Lisa has
written here. While assessing my GIA classmates, I realized that I
was, with one exception, the only student in my class who was not
already employed in the industry. Everyone else was either a third
generation family-owned jewelry store denizen, or currently employed
as sales associates by a major chain, such as Tiffany & Co., Van
Cleef and Arpels or stores of somewhat less note, like Mayors or
Bailey, Banks and Biddle, Jared, etc.

Even with my own self-taught experience as a lapidary, goldsmith and
lifelong rockhound, it took nearly 2 1/2 years after graduation form
GIA’s G.G. program to be seriously considered for the job I landed
in a small sole proprietorship a few months ago. Lucky for me, the
owner reconsidered replacing the lovely young lady who had decided
to go into massage therapy as a vocation with another, similar young
lady. The owner decided that after 25 years of being the go-to
appraisal guy in this county, at age 51, he’s looking forward to
retirement in the next 10 years or so, and needs to work on his golf
game. In me, he has an experienced lapidary, bench jeweler and
gemologist who is also retired military (and therefore has his own
benefits), can supervise the store when he’s upstate, vacationing in
the home he’s building near Lake Dora and keep things running
smoothly instead of closing the store during vacations. The fact
that I’m also building a web site for the store doesn’t hurt,
either.

The point is, Daniel gave Lisa some very sage advice. And even
experience won’t necessarily get you employed in this business
unless the employer really, really, really needs exactly the
experience and training you have. After your first obstacle of
proving that you can get a job in the industry is overcome, then the
hard part begins: actually getting a job in the industry. What
worked for me was simply doing everything I could by myself as a
goldsmith, lapidary, jeweler and gemologist until the exact position
came along.

I hope yours comes along much sooner.

James S. Duncan, G.G.
James in SoFl