More than half a million jobs have been lost alone in the state of Florida because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of those affected work in fields that might not come back or will struggle to over the next few years.
“The past year has exposed just how urgent the need is to help more Floridians prepare for resilient careers,” said Henry Mack, Chancellor for Career and Adult Education at the Florida Department of Education. “We’ll continue to feel the economic aftershocks of the pandemic for years to come – which means we have to meet workers and job-seekers where they are to help them navigate an increasingly dynamic world of work.”
In order to achieve that, a group of Florida colleges and the state’s Department of Education are teaming up with the nonprofit SkillUp Coalition, which aims to help those workers gets retrained, reskilled and rehired into better-paying and more stable careers, such as health care and technology.
The SkillUp Coalition, which has made inroads with colleges in others states such as Missouri and Louisiana, brings together a unique set of partners – higher education institutions, employers, workforce nonprofits and foundations – to provide best practices, deep labor market analytics and solutions to solve this urgent problem.
In Florida, while tourism and hospitality will come back, that may still take time. Retail and restaurant jobs, which dominated the landscape prior to the pandemic, are also a concern.
“While the country’s continued uptick in vaccinations is promising, we still have a long road ahead in our efforts to ensure an equitable recovery,” said Steve Lee, Executive Director of the SkillUp Coalition. “By teaming up with the colleges and policymakers who have been at the forefront of Florida’s response to the pandemic, we’re helping workers across the state recover stronger.”
How SkillUp works
The Coalition will try to realize new pathways for prospective students while publicly promoting programs that can help them succeed in jobs of the future. The job training and career resources will be free for those who want to get trained in more relevant positions. For those who want to take on an ambitious path, the colleges are there to provide that, as well as financial aid.
“Once-in-a-lifetime challenges require partnership and collaboration — between education providers, employers, policymakers, and advocates,” said Dr. Tom LoBasso, President of Daytona State College. Seminole State College and Valencia College in Central Florida are also partners. “We’re proud to join this group of forward-thinking organizations working to help learners across the state connect to new career paths, at a time when fresh approaches to economic mobility have never been more important.”
The Florida Department of Education already has a strategic workforce development program called Get There that offers resources on career and technical education programs through the state’s College System and technical colleges. But by partnering with SkillUp, users will have access to an app that helps them further identify paths that meet their needs or shows them opportunities that may provide higher pay and upward mobility.
SkillUp’s reach is impressive. Education partners include Calbright College, Coursera, EdX, eCornell, Penn Foster, Southern New Hampshire University and the University of Maryland Global Campus. Its operating partners include nonprofit JFF, and it also has philanthropic partnerships with Strada and Walmart. In addition, it has teamed up with a slew of technology difference makers including the Project on Workforce at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Malcolm Weiner Center, Arena and Education Design Lab.
All of these groups and the college work together through analytics and collaboration to address four areas of need, according to SkillUp. They include:
- Career navigation. Workers can utilize technology-enabled tools and coaches to get into careers that provide better pay and better stability.
- Training programs: These reskilling initiatives not only provide the training that students need but also financial aid.
- Job opportunities: The importance of this cannot be undersold, both for students and the institutions that help provide them, as displaced workers need to be matched to career paths that are in demand.
- Coaching and Support: Ultimately the goal of any program attempting to retrain and reskill workers is to give them support that makes career placement a reality. By sharing their challenges and solutions, the Coalition provides a strong network to achieve that.
“Investing in our residents who are most affected by the pandemic and getting them back to work as quickly as possible is paramount,” says Indian River State College President Dr. Timothy Moore. “IRSC proudly and fully supports the SkillUp Coalition by offering fast-track programs and job placement assistance to those who need it most. We aim to help our citizens and businesses get their footing back today and thrive in a post-pandemic world.”