The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and the National Governors Association’s Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) are launching a new network that links governors’ offices, community colleges and workforce leaders to help workers navigate transformational changes in the economy caused by the pandemic.
The Reskilling and Recovery Network, which is supported by Lumina Foundation and the Siemens Foundation, will bring together state and community college leaders to offer targeted assistance and identify strategies to provide workers with the skills needed in the changing economy.
Twenty states are in the network: 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.
COVID-19 and measures taken to limit the transmission of the coronavirus, including widespread business closures, have led to 14 million jobs lost in the United States. The national unemployment rate increased from 3.8 percent in February to 11.1 percent in June.
Most in need of services
Lumina Foundation and other education advocates expect a surge in community college enrollments especially, as dislocated workers and other adults seek retraining and upskilling, said Chauncy Lennon, the foundation’s vice president for the future of learning and work.
“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,” he said.
The pandemic has disproportionately affected lower-income workers who are concentrated in service-sector jobs that do not lend themselves to telework. According to the Federal Reserve, among people who were working in February, almost 40 percent of those in households making less than $40,000 a year had lost a job in March.
Women and communities of color have also borne disproportionate impacts. The Reskilling and Recovery Network aims to address equity disparities that have increased during the economic and health crisis.
Critical to the recovery
The nation’s community colleges are essential to developing a strong workforce, especially during the pandemic, said AACC President and CEO Walter Bumphus.
“Working directly with government leaders to wholly address the needs of workers and businesses will benefit students, local economies and the nation’s workforce,” he said. “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.”
Governors already had been working to prepare their states for future jobs, but the pandemic had made the effort much more urgent, said Timothy Blute, director of the NGA Center.
“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,” he said.
Through the network, participating states will:
- Engage with a collaborative network of state leaders to strategize economic and workforce recovery efforts.
- Receive access to innovative tools designed by peers in the field and be paired with experts engaged by the NGA Center and AACC.
- Access technical assistance including webinars, facilitated peer-to-peer learning, virtual state site visits, and more.
The Education Strategy Group and the National Association of Workforce Boards will work with AACC and NGA on the network.