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Delaware County Community College Joins National Initiative to Retrain Workers Impacted by the Coronavirus Pandemic
(Delaware and Chester Counties, PA • July 30, 2020)—In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which last month left more than 11 percent of U.S. workers unemployed, Delaware County Community College has joined the American Association of Community Colleges, the National Governors Association (NGA) and higher education and training leaders from 20 states to launch a national effort to help retrain workers impacted by COVID-19.
With support from the Lumina Foundation and the Siemens Foundation, the “Reskilling and Recovery Network” was launched last week. The initiative will involve governors, state leaders and community college leaders from 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. The leaders will share best practices, offer targeted assistance and collaborate on strategies to help workers, especially women and people from communities of color, who studies have shown are disproportionally impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, to reconnect and thrive in the U.S. workforce.
“States and their higher education institutions will need to collaborate to quickly prepare workers for available jobs,” said Chauncy Lennon, Vice President for the Future of Learning and Work at the Lumina Foundation. “We expect a surge in community college enrollments 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 Reskilling and Recovery Network will link governors’ offices, community colleges and workforce leaders to equip workers to successfully navigate the transformational 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 Chief Executive Officer of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). “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.”
COVID-19 and the safety measures taken to limit the transmission of the virus, including widespread business closures, have led to 14 million jobs lost in the United States, and a U.S. unemployment rate of 11.1 percent in June, up from 3.8 percent in February. Delaware County Community College President Dr. L. Joy Gates Black, who sits on the AACC’s Board of Directors and is the state lead for Pennsylvania’s eight-member network team, said it is critical that the nation utilize the expertise of community colleges. “Our long-standing, existing partnerships with labor and industry, government and the community make us essential to the national effort to reskill workers who have suffered devastating economic impacts from COVID-19,” said Dr. Gates Black.
The seven other members of the network team in Pennsylvania include: Dr. Karen Kozachyn, Vice President, Workforce and Economic Development, Delaware County Community College; Dr. Gloria Oikelome, Interim Vice President Academic Affairs/Dean Health Sciences, Montgomery County Community College; Victor Rodgers, Associate Provost, Workforce Development and Continuing Education, Harrisburg Area Community College; Governor Wolf’s Deputy Secretary of Policy and Planning Allison Jones; Sheila D. Ireland, Deputy Secretary, 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.
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 borne disproportionate impacts. The Reskilling and Recovery Network will strive to address equity disparities that have increased during the economic and health crisis caused by the pandemic.
“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 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. 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.”
Through the Reskilling and Recovery Network, participating states will engage with a collaborative network of like-minded state leaders to strategize economic and workforce recovery efforts; receive access to innovative tools designed by peers in the field; pair with experts engaged by the NGA Center and the AACC; as well as access technical assistance, including webinars, facilitated peer-to-peer learning, virtual state site visits, and more.
Education Strategy Group, a Maryland-based consulting firm that works with K-12, higher education and workforce leaders, and the National Association of Workforce Boards, an organization consisting of 550 Workforce Development Boards nationally and their more than 12,000 business members, will work with NGA and the AACC on the network.
“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 President/Chief Executive Officer 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.”