The coronavirus pandemic has done unprecedented damage to the US economy in just five short months, leaving more than 45 million people unemployed and forcing thousands of businesses to shut permanently.
A team of governors across the country are teaming up to address these issues with the Reskilling and Recovery Network, a program announced on Tuesday that will help people navigate the new economy by linking governors’ offices, community colleges, and workforce leaders.
Twenty states with the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices are working with the American Association of Community Colleges on the network, which hopes to “offer targeted assistance and identify fast strategies to give workers the skills necessary to succeed in an economy reshaped by the pandemic.”
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Colorado, Louisiana, Maryland, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin are involved in the new effort, which will also rely on resources provided by the Lumina Foundation and the Siemens Foundation.
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“Governors across the country have been taking steps to prepare their residents for the jobs of the future, but the COVID-19 pandemic makes this effort much more urgent,” Timothy Blute, director of the NGA Center, said in a statement.
“Working with the community colleges in their states, governors are poised to take action to both alleviate the economic impact of COVID-19 and prepare all workers for the needs of the economy when the pandemic subsides,” Blute said. “The support of the Siemens Foundation and Lumina Foundation has been invaluable to bringing about this important partnership with the American Association of Community Colleges.”
According to the center’s statement, 14 million jobs have been lost in the United States and the national unemployment rate increased from 3.8% in February to 11.1% in June.
The economic contraction has had a disastrous effect on industries with work that cannot be done digitally, forcing millions of low income workers to essentially change professions within months.
The Federal Reserve reported in May that almost 40% of households making less than $40,000 a year in February had lost a job in March.
States involved in the Reskilling and Recovery Network will work together on economic and workforce recovery efforts, gain access to innovative tools, and be paired with experts who can help provide solutions. Participating states will also get technical assistance in the form of webinars, facilitated peer-to-peer learning, virtual state site visits, and more.
“The nation’s community colleges are essential to developing a strong workforce,” said Walter G. Bumphus, AACC’s president and CEO.
“Working directly with government leaders to wholly address the needs of workers and businesses will benefit students, local economies, and the nation’s workforce. This work is critical to economic recovery and we are proud to partner with NGA and grateful to our funding partners that recognize that success will only come from an intentional, collective and bipartisan effort.”
A number of tech companies have stepped up to provide free coding courses and digital classes to help unemployed people learn new skills. In April, Codecademy granted five Codecademy Pro memberships to workers who have been furloughed or laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic for every person who joins Codecademy Pro.
Other efforts in the private sector are underway to help with the reskilling process, but states are now getting involved through the Reskilling and Recovery Network. Chauncy Lennon, vice president for the future of learning and work at Lumina Foundation, said in a statement that states and their higher education institutions will need to collaborate to quickly prepare workers for available jobs.
He added that there will be a surge in community college enrollments as millions look to find new work. Lennon noted that many of those affected most were still struggling to recover from the previous recession.
“This is a critical moment for states, educational leaders, and employers to work together to advance an inclusive workforce agenda that doesn’t leave anyone behind,” said Barbara Humpton, chair of the Siemens Foundation and CEO of Siemens USA.
“The Reskilling and Recovery Network will support the development of a coordinated response to engage and cultivate the full range of talent across society, helping people access fulfilling, well-paying careers.”