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New skills for the new normal

News Date: 
Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Should you retool after a coronavirus layoff? 

By Leslie Petrovski

Last week, nearly 3.3 million people filed for unemployment benefits, the most ever in our nation’s history. Restaurant and hotel employees, retail staff, people who support the sports, travel and entertainment sectors, oil and petroleum workers, and this doesn’t even begin to tally up the losses for gig workers.

Though the U.S. government has approved a mighty $2 trillion package to shore up the economy, one that will put at least $1,200 in every pot, that will only go so far in stemming the economic tsunami we’re facing.

For those of us who have lost jobs or experienced furloughs or reduced hours, the pandemic offers an opportunity to adapt to a new normal. Were you stuck in a low-wage job? Is there a career you’ve wanted to pursue? Who might be hiring in the post-pandemic job market? Do I need new skills for this brave new world that’s coming?

Historically when recessions hit, people tend to return to school. That’s because the opportunity cost--the jobs and earnings you give up while in school—plummets, making education more attractive. A certificate or new degree can add shine your resume or position you for a new career as well.

We don’t know what the job market will look like in the aftermath of the coronavirus, but we do know that the cost of public and private colleges and universities has skyrocketed relative to income in recent decades. We also know that many college grads enter the world saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

If you find yourself recently unemployed, now might be a good time to reconsider your education, especially if you have a clear goal in sight and can achieve your goal without incurring too much debt.

Community colleges and career and technical institutions offer lower-cost—and quicker—alternatives to traditional four-year colleges and universities, depending on what you want to accomplish. Should you want to become a medical doctor, you can certainly start at a community college, but you’ll finish in medical school—six or seven years down the line. If you want to become a pharmacy technician—a hot degree if ever there was one in our nation’s hot zones—you can earn a certificate in an accredited program and begin practicing in less than a year.

At Emily Griffith Technical College educators are pushing to launch additional online and hybrid programs designed to prepare students for post-coronavirus workforce trends they’re already noticing.

“The widespread telehealth and work-at-home phenomena are likely to continue,” says Stephanie Donner, Emily’s executive director. “So jobs that support home-based workers and healthcare should be in high demand. Think software developers, network administrators, cyber security professionals and training help. And clearly there’s a huge need for additional healthcare workers and domestic manufacturing capacity to scale medical products and equipment.”

To that end the college is launching an online Google IT Support Professional Certificate to add to programs they already have in computer networking, cybersecurity, web development, multimedia and video production along with healthcare opportunities such as practical nursing, phlebotomy, pharmacy technician and targeted trades.

“These programs should help displaced workers prepare for the future,” Donner explains. “Emily Griffith is here to help people reenergize their careers and return to work re-skilled and ready to contribute to a new Colorado.”

New skills for a new normal: Should you retool after a coronavirus layoff? 

Choosing the right school in a pandemic still means finding the right fit