The Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), with support from Guardian Life, has released the third report in a four-part series detailing critical issues and strategies related to community colleges’ roles in workforce development. Reskilling for the Pandemic Recession and Recovery focuses on the U.S. economic downturn since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had a disproportionate impact on Black and Hispanic individuals, women, and people without a postsecondary degree. Considering these challenges, the brief details policy proposals for large-scale workforce development initiatives and strategies that community colleges can implement to support unemployed and adult learners.
The report also highlights examples of community colleges’ responses to the pandemic, including the Michigan Futures for Frontliners scholarship program for essential workers, and healthcare training at Kirkwood Community College in Iowa to meet increased demand in this sector.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified community colleges’ mission to create educational and training opportunities to support students who are in need of a new career,” said ACCT President and CEO J. Noah Brown. “Addressing the current health, economic, and social challenges requires bold workforce-development policies and community college actions to support students access the resources they need to pursue postsecondary education, even in our difficult and uncertain environment.”
Major takeaways from the report include:
During the pandemic, the U.S. unemployment rate has reached a high of 13 percent nationally. People without postsecondary education, as well as Black and Hispanic individuals, and women, have experienced the highest rates of job loss. In addition, partially due to fewer opportunities for telework, job loss has been concentrated in service and hospitality sectors.
Community colleges continue to advocate for a new large-scale federal investment in workforce training. Federal legislation for workforce training has stalled; however, some states and localities have started their own programs to address workforce training needs, including using funds from the federal CARES Act.
Colleges can improve reskilling programs by increasing financial aid, focusing on the unique needs of adult and out-of-work learners, and offering hybrid educational options. Hybrid options are especially important for training programs that require at least some hands-on experience.
“Guardian Life is proud to support community colleges, as they continue to evolve their workforce approach by offering students a variety of curriculum pathways for reskilling to advance their careers during the current health crisis,” said Veena Jayadeva, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Guardian Life. “Community colleges are well positioned to understand local industry needs to combat unemployment, and they provide flexible approaches and course delivery systems to ensure the best experience for a diverse group of students in our local communities.”
Prior reports in this series include The College-Work Balancing Act (2019) and Make it Count: Recognizing Prior Learning for Workforce Development (2020). In 2021, ACCT will publish one more report as part of this series on the topic of community colleges’ roles in workforce development and meeting labor market needs.
To download the reports, go to www.acct.org.
The Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) is a non-profit educational organization of governing boards, representing more than 6,500 elected and appointed trustees who govern over 1,200 community, technical, and junior colleges in the United States and beyond. For more information, go to www.acct.org.
Guardian is a Fortune 250 mutual company and a leading provider of life, disability, dental, and other benefits for individuals, at the workplace and through government sponsored programs. For more information, visit guardianlife.com.