Workforce development plays a key role in supporting higher education during the era of COVID-19 in addition to stabilizing job employment and a battered economy.
Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the federal unemployment rate dropped in May for the first time since the pandemic, 21 million people remain out of work. Even before the pandemic, the job market had already predicted that more than half of employees would have to upskill or reskill by 2022, according to the World Economic Forum, an international organization for public-private cooperation.
Community colleges and even some four-year institutions are therefore creating new workforce development training opportunities and forming strategic partnerships in their communities to improve these numbers as quickly as possible.
Challenges of workforce development training during closures
But distance education poses more challenges for workforce development as opposed to most other higher ed programs, even though every aspect of teaching and learning has been impacted by the transition to online learning.
“There are many programs that require face-to-face instruction in workforce development,” says Martha M. Parham, senior vice president of public relations for the American Association of Community Colleges, a primary advocacy organization for the nation’s community colleges. “You don’t want your electrical linemen to start working when they have never climbed a 40-foot pole or want nurses who have never worked on a patient before in a hospital.”
Although many institutions have moved as most of their workforce development programs online, much of the work cannot be done remotely. “For automotive courses, for example, even if you have limited number of students in the classroom, students will be working on and touching parts or tools,” she says. “Schools are working on ways to do this as safely as possible with the recognition that it is not going to be 100 percent.”
Here are four ways that higher ed has been bringing life back to their communities through workforce development during the COVID era.
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