OP-ED | The great resignation: responsive higher education for a changing labor market
As the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic appear to be easing across the country, a promising workforce trend is taking hold. People of virtually all job descriptions, having reassessed and reassessed their preferences and priorities over the past year, are evaluating their job characteristics in a new light. And many – more and more in unprecedented numbers – are seeking change.
In a recent survey of 2,000 workers commissioned by Prudential Financial Inc., a quarter of those polled said they plan to look for new jobs after the pandemic, with many citing issues with work-life balance personal among their main concerns. Half of those polled said they felt the pandemic had given them more control over deciding the direction of their careers.
Dubbed âThe Great Resignation,â nearly 4 million people in the United States had already left their jobs in April; this is the highest number for a single month since 2000. And as people are weighing the best way to get from where they are to where they would like to be professionally, they often turn to academic courses for them. help to progress.
Higher education degrees and diplomas can be the path to a better new job, and flexibility in seeking additional qualifications, whether in a new field or to advance in a current career, can be a key element. to achieve its goals.
The economy will require major collaborative efforts aimed at vocational training and workforce development. Innovative approaches to post-secondary education are a key long-term strategy for investing in the workforce and recovering the labor market. These approaches are most effective when they focus on mastering skills, at an affordable cost, with a flexible schedule that allows learners to remain employed while earning a degree.
Competency-based education measures subject skills and knowledge rather than time spent in the classroom. Launched in 1997 by accredited nonprofit Western Governors University (WGU), each student progresses individually for six months at an affordable all-inclusive tuition fee. During the term, students can take as many courses as their schedule allows and as soon as they can prove that they have mastered the subject.
At each of WGU’s four colleges – commerce, health professions, information technology, and education – competency-based degree programs align with workforce imperatives and are highly adaptable, allowing education and industry partners to create and refine high quality learning pathways. This innovative learning model complements Connecticut’s many excellent traditional higher education options, expanding opportunities to fill existing gaps.
WGU is also partnering with local community colleges on credit transfers for their graduates, and with local businesses to support human resource goals and expand access to higher education for their employees. These initiatives support efforts to retain businesses and employees in Connecticut, so both can thrive.
For example, nurses are the largest profession in the nation’s and Connecticut’s health care system. The Connecticut Center for Nursing Workforce reported in 2019 that Connecticut can expect nearly half of its current workforce to retire in the next 10 to 15 years and warned that the state did not have the number of nurses in the 35-50 age group needed to fill these positions.
Almost 15% of people who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing in the United States last year graduated from WGU. These motivated learners include students like Sarah Williams, a 38-year-old working mother of three, for whom WGU was the only realistic option due to her other family and work responsibilities. Stephanie Tomaino, a Masters of Nursing student at WGU, also said her ability to continue her education while working full-time in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at Hartford Hospital during the pandemic would have been impossible without the flexibility of the WGU model.
For many of Connecticut’s roughly 800 WGU students and 1,455 alumni, this model is the only way for them to simultaneously graduate from college and continue to advance in their careers without interruption. More than 150 Connecticut students earned WGU degrees last year alone.
Higher education, along with employers, needs to meet people where they are as we all settle into our changed world and our changing workforce. Individuals will carefully analyze their employment prospects and possibilities, making their assessment through a very different lens.
It is clear that the economic recovery, both for families and for communities and states, will be influenced by the choices that are made around kitchen tables as well as in meeting rooms. Connecticut’s outlook may well be determined by how opportunities match new priorities.
Rebecca L. Watts, Ph.D., is Regional Vice President of Western Governors University (WGU), a nonprofit accredited competency-based learning university with nearly 800 students in Connecticut and over 1,450 alumni in the state.
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