Delaware County Community College has joined the American Association of Community Colleges, the National Governors Association and higher education and training leaders from 20 states to launch a national effort to help retrain workers impacted by COVID-19.
The Reskilling and Recovery Network was launched with support from the Lumina Foundation and the Siemens Foundation. The initiative will involve governors, state leaders and community college leaders from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Colorado, Louisiana, Maryland, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.
The leaders will share best practices, offer targeted assistance and collaborate on strategies to help workers, especially women and people of color, who are disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, reconnect to the U.S. workforce.
“State and their higher education institutions will need to collaborate to quickly prepare workers for available jobs,” Chauncy Lennon, vice president for the Future of Learning and Work at the Lumina Foundation said in a news release.
“We expect a surge in community college enrollment especially as dislocated workers and other adults seek retraining and upskilling. Workers in low-wage jobs, many still struggling to recover from the previous recession, are once again the most severely affected and will depend on training in community colleges for new and better jobs.”
The network will link governors’ officers, community colleges and workforce leaders to equip workers to navigate the changes in the economy caused by the pandemic, business shutdowns and efforts to stop the virus from spreading.
“The nation’s community colleges are essential to developing a strong workforce,” said Walter G. Bumphus, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges.
“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.”
DCCC President L. Joy Gates Black said it is critical that the nation utilize the expertise of community colleges.
“Community colleges have long been places where we offer career and technical training and we have a relationship with business and industry to make sure that our curriculum are meeting their needs so when our students graduate they are prepared to go into the workforce,” said Black, who sits on the AACC’s Board of Directors and is the state lead for Pennsylvania’s eight member network team.
“What this Reskilling and Recovery Network does for us across the country is it brings like-minded folks together. It’s helping us learn from each other, but it’s also creating the opportunity to just build those connections across the state and across the country.”
The seven other members of the network team in Pennsylvania include Karen Kozachyn, vice president, Workforce and Economic Development, DCCC; Gloria Oikelome, interim vice president, Academic Affairs and dean of Health Sciences, Montgomery County Community College; Victor Rodgers, associate provost, Workforce Development and Continuing Education, Harrisburg Area Community College; Allison Jones, Gov. Tom Wolf’s secretary of Policy and Planning; Sheila D. Ireland, Workforce Development, Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry; Allen Norton, workforce development executive, Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry and H. Patrick Clancy, president/CEO, Philadelphia Works, Inc.
Black said DCCC is offering programs to retrain workers for positions on Pennsylvania’s “High Priority Occupation List” including carpenters, electricians, HVAC technicians, information technology, manufacturing, nurses and technical support.
“These are the same jobs that are in need coming into to where we are now in the pandemic,” she said.
“These are jobs that we are actively working with employers to train people for, so that they are ready to fill those spots.”
The network’s launch comes as the safety measures taken to limit the spread of the virus, including widespread business closures have led to 14 million jobs lost in the U.S. The pandemic has disproportionately affected lower-income workers who are concentrated in service-sector jobs that do not lend themselves to telework.
“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,” said Timothy Blute, director of NGA’s Center for Best Practices.
“Working with 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.”