After a year of hardships, there’s good news on the horizon: Americans are finally getting back to work after the COVID-19 pandemic. Department of Labor jobs data released on March 5, 2021, showed that the labor market is emerging from both winter hibernation and COVID isolation with vigor. While this is much-needed good news, there’s one other issue that has to be considered. In short, the post-pandemic workforce will need very different skills than they needed just one year ago. In the last year, as the world retreated inside and the economy shifted online, there was an acceleration in digital transformation that has created a skills gap.
From service industry positions to administrative roles within offices, many jobs have been eliminated as the need to be able to work and interact remotely took precedence. Inevitably, there’s the very real concern that displaced workers will disappear from the post-pandemic workforce, which would have negative consequences, both for the economy and for the workers themselves. To avoid permanently losing workers from the labor market and continue to drive economic growth, state and local governments need to invest in reskilling these workers through continuing education and other targeted programs.
Already some state and local governments are stepping-up with investments in post-pandemic workforce reskilling. A recent Fast Company article noted that “New York has launched a platform in partnership with leading online training provider Coursera, that provides 4,000 free courses to unemployed and underemployed New Yorkers.”
The State of New York’s investment in reskilling will provide access to “online programs taught by leading professors and industry professionals…with a focus on high-growth and in-demand sectors like advanced manufacturing, technology, and health care, among others.” Shared New York’s governor in an announcement about the new program: “This new training platform will be key in this effort by ensuring unemployed and underemployed New Yorkers are not left behind by providing access to the resources and training they need to get back on their feet.”
The programs, many of which provide a pathway to industry-recognized professional certifications, will help New Yorkers re-start their careers and compete in new industries, including data science, where there is a critical shortage of workers. Added New York State Labor Commissioner, Roberta Reardon, “Training and retraining our workforce are critical when it comes to getting New Yorkers back on the job. New skills and expanded knowledge can provide more pathways to more jobs and help diversify our workforce — which is good for both workers and our businesses.”
As states, localities, and the citizens they serve continue to recover from the pandemic, it’s essential that this recovery includes workforce reskilling. To not acknowledge the profound changes that all sectors of the economy have experienced over the last year and its impact on workers will negatively affect not only those who’ve lost jobs but the competitiveness of businesses, as well as states and localities. With an investment in workforce reskilling through partnerships with organizations like Coursera that provide high-quality instructors and course materials, state and local governments will continue to drive innovation and be ready to weather the next upheaval, whatever that may be.
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