Arizona community colleges, businesses and government agencies have joined a national movement to help those most affected by the massive job losses during the pandemic: low wage workers, women and people of color.

The effort, called the Reskilling and Recovery Network, is intended to not only to get people back to work but to train them for today’s modern jobs, particularly for technology positions like data and project management, cloud computing, cybersecurity, IT architecture, aviation technology, artificial intelligence and more.

“Many in our community are experiencing hardships because they’ve lost their job or a family member has lost theirs,” said Steven R. Gonzales, interim chancellor of the Maricopa Community College District (MCCD), the largest in the nation. “These families are undoubtedly uneasy about what tomorrow will bring. Our colleges understand that these concerns are very real, and are identifying every solution to ease the worry and set up our community to succeed.”

All 10 community college districts join to help economies recover

All 10 community college districts in Arizona have joined the national network, which is a 20-state collaboration to help Americans who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic and help local economies recover to their pre-COVID levels.

Widespread business closures due to the pandemic have led to massive job losses in Arizona and across the nation, particularly for those who work in service industries like restaurants, retail and hospitality.

Hispanic women among those hardest hit in “shecession”

Hispanic women, immigrants, young adults and those with less education were hit hardest by COVID-19 job losses, according to the nonprofit, nonpartisan Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C.

According to the National Governors Association (NGA), businesses closed by the COVID-19 pandemic led to 14 million jobs lost in the U.S. According to the Federal Reserve, almost 40 percent of households making less than $40,000 a year lost their jobs in March.

And while a record number of jobs have been added back into the economy — 4.8 million in June and 1.8 million in July — many women are still being left behind because of jobs that cannot be done through telecommuting, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

College leaders: Now is the time to act

College leaders said they have been putting new programs in place to reskill workers for the digital age. Now, is the time to be even more proactive.

“We have to help people acquire new skills and get the training necessary to adapt to the rapidly changing nature of the workplace,” Pima Community College Chancellor Lee D. Lambert said. “This is also imperative to help us reach Arizona’s Achieve60AZ goal: that 60 percent of Arizona adults have a postsecondary degree or certificate by the year 2030. We only have 10 years, and for the sake of Arizona’s citizens and the future of our state, we need to reach that target.”

Community colleges expand technology offerings

Over the past several years, colleges across the state have been beefing up their  technology offerings to meet industry demand. Here is a small sampling:

Google IT Support Professional: In June, eight colleges began offering a Google IT Support Professional Support Professional certificate program including Maricopa Community College’s Maricopa Corporate College, Pima Community College and Arizona Western College. The nationally accredited program is for beginners to introduce learners to troubleshooting, customer service, networking, operating systems, system administration and security.

Artificial Intelligence certificate and degree: In the first collaboration of its kind, Intel is teaming up with the MCCD to launch the nation’s first Intel-designed AI certificate and associate degree program.

Aviation Technology Program: Pima Community College is undergoing the expansion of its nationally recognized Aviation Technology Program that teaches maintenance and repair training for large transport commercial aircraft. A modernization and expansion of the facility that is adjacent to Tucsonadjacent Tucson International Airport is expected to be completed in 2021 or early 2022.

3D Construction Program: Yavapai College announced this year it is launching what is believed to be the nation’s first 3D Construction Program to add to its current construction programs. Students can learn the emerging new technology of 3D printing to construct houses.

Arizona organizations join the reskilling effort 

In Arizona, those joining with the college districts in the effort are the Governor’s Office, Achieve60AZ, Arizona Commerce Authority, Arizona Community College Coordinating Council, Greater Yuma Economic Development Corp., Pinal County Economic and Workforce Development Department, and The Boeing Company.

About the Reskilling and Recovery Network

The network is a partnership between the NGA’s Center for Best Practices and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) with support from the Lumina and Siemens foundation.

Through the network, Arizona and other states will:

• Engage employers in partnering with community colleges to train and hire new employees, prioritizing jobs that pay a living wage or more.

• Engage with a collaborative network of like-minded state leaders  to strategize economic and workforce recovery on a regular basis.

• Receive access to tools designed by peers in the field and be paired with experts engaged by the NGA Center and AACC.

• Have access to technical assistance including webinars, facilitated peer-to-peer learning, virtual state site visits and more.


This story was originally published at Chamber Business News.