Reassess and reskill

Sundt Construction has partnered with Central Arizona College to develop craft trade pathways in several areas, including industrial construction technology. (Photo: CAC)

Wanda Smith-Gispert has been working in the gaming industry for nearly five years. As a regional vice president of workforce development for MGM Resorts, she’s well versed in odds and probabilities. Yet, she never would have bet that a global pandemic would bring her industry to a halt this past spring. 

While MGM’s hotels and casinos around the world were closed as a result of the coronavirus, the company developed a “Seven-Point Safety Plan” for reopening. The document outlines new policies and procedures for how MGM properties should operate during the pandemic to keep everyone safe. 

This excerpt comes from the current issue of the Community College Journal, which is published by the American Association of Community Colleges.

“Covid-19 has changed the game in terms of safety,” Smith-Gispert says. 

Aside from the obvious health and safety measures — screening and temperature checks for employees before they enter a facility, mandatory masks for employees and guests in public areas, hand washing and sanitizing stations placed strategically throughout buildings — the plan calls for new innovations that transform traditional processes into contactless experiences for guests.

For instance, instead of having to wait in line at the front desk, guests can now complete the check-in process themselves from a mobile phone. They also can order in restaurants using a QR code. 

Plexiglas barriers separate casino dealers from players, and dealers must follow strict sanitation protocols for wiping down chips and cards between uses. Employees have received comprehensive training on these new health and safety measures, and the changes are reflected in the curricula taught by MGM’s partner institutions, such as Prince George’s Community College (PGCC) in Maryland. 

Adapting to a new environment

The pandemic has affected different industries in different ways. Some have seen huge job losses; others have continued to thrive. 

But one common thread across nearly all industries is that trainers and hiring managers are reevaluating the skills employees will need moving forward — and community college leaders will have to work with their industry partners to understand these changes. 

The global research firm McKinsey & Co. observes that companies will need to retrain their workforces to emerge stronger once the pandemic is over.

“Adapting employees’ skills and roles to the post-pandemic ways of working will be crucial to building … resilience,” the company says. 

Even before the pandemic, rapidly evolving technologies were disrupting both jobs and the skills they require. The pandemic has intensified this challenge, forcing companies and employees to figure out how to adapt on the fly to changing circumstances — and community colleges will play a key role in this reskilling process.

Healthcare needs 

Health care is one obvious industry that is being reshaped by the pandemic. 

Wayne UNC Health Care, an affiliate hospital of UNC Health Care in North Carolina, operates about 200 beds, including a 16-bed intensive care unit (ICU). In response to the pandemic, the hospital has converted its entire top floor to a Covid treatment center and has created a second ICU just for coronavirus patients, says Donna Wimberly, senior vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer. 

Amid the pandemic, Wayne UNC Health Care is experiencing a need for more central sterile processing technicians, who are responsible for cleaning and sterilizing the instruments used during surgery.

“We have a robust internal training program, but it would be great if [candidates] had some formal training before they even got to us,” Wimberly says. 

The hospital also needs more certified surgical technicians to help maintain a sterile environment during surgery. Wayne UNC Health Care has a close partnership with Wayne Community College (WCC) dating back more than five decades, and the two organizations are working to develop new programs at the college that will help meet these demands. 

WDI this week: AACC’s annual Workforce Development Institute will include various sessions on reskilling the workforce. Check out the schedule and register today.

WCC already supplies the hospital with highly skilled health care workers in other roles, such as phlebotomists and registered nurses. Each year, Wayne UNC Health Care contributes $100,000 toward scholarships for nursing students at the college, covering full tuition for any student who agrees to work for the hospital when they graduate. 

Nearly three years ago, the hospital helped WCC expand its nursing program by hiring an additional clinical instructor. “They didn’t have the budget to do that initially, so we committed to paying for the first two years’ salary and 50 percent in the third year,” Wimberly says. “That gave them time to build this position into their budget.” 

Now, the hospital faces a new surge in demand for nurses. 

“Early on in the pandemic, we didn’t see anyone leaving the hospital,” Wimberly says. “But as people have realized that this isn’t just a 90-day event, that has changed.” 

Some nurses have reevaluated their career choices, either out of concern for themselves or their families or because they would prefer a less stressful lifestyle.

“In a field already struggling with supply and demand, the pandemic has been an additional stressor,” Wimberly says.

There’s more to this article. Read the full story in the current issue of Community College Journal.

About the Author

Dennis Pierce
is an education writer based in Boston.