Worker Retraining

Worker Retraining is a state-funded program designed to help eligible individuals update their job skills and return to employment.

Illustration of a person searching for opportunities with a telescope
  • Potential funding for tuition and course-related fees
  • Assistance with Employment Security and gaining permission to attend school while collecting unemployment benefits – more details on this page
  • Educational advising and planning
  • Assistance in locating additional funding for training
  • Priority registration
  • Liaison to Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), WIOA, and other agencies
  • TAA and WIOA students: if you need information for your Training Research packet, please contact Worker Retraining advisor Joy Prosise at for assistance.

You may be eligible for the Worker Retraining program if you are a Washington state resident* AND in at least one of the following categories:

  • You are currently receiving or eligible to receive unemployment benefits, or have received a warn/layoff notice
  • You have exhausted unemployment benefits within the past 48 months and not returned to work
  • You are an unemployed or under-employed veteran discharged within the past 48 months
  • You are active duty military with separation orders
  • You are a displaced homemaker: an unemployed or underemployed individual who has been dependent on a family member’s income, but are no longer supported by that income due to divorce, death, or permanent disability of the main wage-earner
  • You were formerly self-employed, but are now unemployed due to economic changes in your community

*Nonresident students may still qualify, but for a limited amount of tuition assistance.

Information for Students Receiving Unemployment

When you’re receiving unemployment insurance benefits (UI), Employment Security (ESD) is paying you to look for work and be available to accept work. ESD considers school a conflict with availability, so you must request approval for your program and show why you need to upgrade your skills or change occupations. This is done through the CAT/TB application (see definition below). Worker Retraining provides assistance with this process and a weekly CAT/TB Workshop is available.

Possible Permissions from ESD:

• School Attendance – does not change your requirements but allows you to go school as long as you continue your required job-search-related activities and do not turn down employment. Online application (in ESD eServices) is completed after you report starting training on your weekly UI claim.
• Commissioner Approved Training (CAT) – waives ESD’s job search and work availability requirement while you attend a full-time professional/technical program (job skill related).
• Training Benefits (TB) – waives the job search/availability and gives an extension of unemployment payments while in your approved training program (max of 26 additional weeks). TB does not pay for school costs/tuition. Application deadlines may apply.

What ESD applications are required?

  • Approval for School Attendance is mandatory if you are receiving UI benefits and attending school, even if attendance is part-time and the course(s) are online or in the evenings.
  • CAT and TB applications are optional, but unless ESD waives the requirement you’ll need to continue to be available for work. If you turn down employment without having CAT or TB approval, ESD could require repayment of UI benefits paid during your training.

How do I apply to CAT/TB?

  • CAT/TB Workshop offered online.
  • Once you have attended the workshop, you will be able to submit your completed CAT/TB application for review.

What is an ESD Progress Report?

If approved for CAT, Employment Security will ask for progress reports approximately every 6 weeks to see how you are doing in school.

What do I do with my ESD Progress Reports?

Ask one of your instructors to sign it, verifying attendance and satisfactory progress. Make a copy for your files, and fax and/or mail it to the address specified on the progress report before the deadline. If in-between quarters, contact the Workforce Education office; staff will check your grades and sign the form. You will then copy, fax and mail as above.

Does CAT/TB pay my tuition?

No. CAT is only approval to go to school and to suspend your job search. TB is only an extension of UI benefits. Tuition is paid through other sources such as Worker Retraining, financial aid grants, WIOA, scholarships, etc., depending upon eligibility.

Are Worker Retraining and the Dislocated Worker Program the same?

No. The Worker Retraining Program is a state funded program and the Dislocated Worker Program is a federal program. The eligibility criteria and application process is different.

What programs does Worker Retraining fund?

State-funded, credit programs or classes that lead towards improved employment opportunities. List of Eligible Programs.

How do I apply?

The first step is to attend one of Workforce Education’s weekly Info Sessions.

Is there a deadline to apply for Worker Retraining?

No. But to get the most out of this opportunity, please come to the Info Session even if you are not sure if you want to attend. College classes can fill up and there are deadlines to be aware of if you are receiving unemployment benefits.

Do I have to apply for financial aid?

Yes – even if you have a college degree. We have all our students apply so we can see if they might qualify for other grant programs as well.

How do I get more information?

Attend a Workforce Education Information Session. You can register for a Zoom info session, held Tuesdays at 2:30pm, or download the info session PowerPoint to review on your own time.

Last Updated May 16, 2022