Veterans find COVID silver lining: chance to retrain for new career

Army veteran Stephen Hampshire had been plodding along in a good job as a collision estimator, dreaming of work that allowed him to follow his heart and work with his hands. But he had bills to pay and a family to support.

Then COVID hit, and his company was in trouble. In March, his boss asked him to jump on a conference call: “If you’re on this call,” the boss said, “we have to let you go.” How would his family survive through the worst time in generations to be looking for a job?

“That’s a kick in the teeth, ain’t it?” Hampshire said.

It was also an opportunity.

Hampshire’s story is becoming an increasingly common refrain in Minnesota among veterans and others who are changing career paths during the pandemic. Hennepin Technical College, where Hampshire went to retrain, has seen an increase in laid-off workers pursuing a second career.

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