54-year-old Michael Vaudreuil is used to picking up things at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. He has been working as custodian there for the last eight years, vacuuming the carpets, cleaning the floors, wiping the blackboards and picking up the trash. But last month, Vaudreuil picked up something he’ll actually want to hang on to – a degree in mechanical engineering.
In 2008, Vaudreuil, a self-employed plastering contractor, with two decades of successful entrepreneurship under his belt, felt his world crashing down on him. As recession hit, less phone calls were coming in, but he tried not to panic. Soon, clients stopped calling completely and he had no choice but to file for bankruptcy. Soon, his home was foreclosed, his car repossessed and without his income to support his wife’s vending machine business, that eventually went under as well. He and his family moved into a tiny apartment and Michael started looking for jobs with construction companies, but no one was hiring.