What’s the HOPE for a de-stabilized labor market?

As the economy transitions to regain its foothold, a continuous flow of highly-skilled and well-developed careerists must be prepared to enter or re-enter the workforce. Like the Great Recession of 2007- 2010, COVID-19 presented a massive economic downturn that threatened the labor market. It posed a new reality for the future of work, forcing many Americans to consider new career opportunities and access to e-learning communities. The movement toward digital learning is more reality like never before.

Our social norm has been decimated, and the “new norm” is at the cusp of its formation. A careful watch of our nation’s continued response to COVID-19 amid the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommendations will yield the standard social practices for what will soon be accepted as the official new norm. While many speculations are looming on social media platforms for how and why COVID-19 has come to be, we need not exhaust our intensive creativity on the realities imposed upon all humanity. The harsh imposition is that this pandemic has brought irreversible gloom to families across the globe, but in this devastation, there is HOPE. And maybe a “rise-and-shine” from this experience is a transformative season of change for all.

In 2020, more than 26.5 million Americans were reported as unemployed, the workforce eco-system has a tremendous responsibility to engage the labor-force.

So, what’s the HOPE for a de-stabilized labor market? Recall the 2007-2010 economic downturn known as The Great Recession. The downturn tremendously affected the stability of the labor force as 8.8 million Americans lost their jobs, creating a new norm for access to education opportunities (i.e., microredentialing, hybrid, traditional, and online) and high-demand careers. While the effects of the Great Recession pale compared to those of COVID-19, the most significant transition was the increase of mal-employed persons. Mal-employment is a sub-set of under-employment, a concept made a reality by the recession. It is defined as persons with advanced college degrees who are over-skilled working in underpaid positions. At the onset, mal-employment was determined to be:

  • persons who possess more education and a higher level of skills
  • persons who were involuntarily employed in a job that was not related to their area of study
  • persons who were involuntarily employed in a part-time position
  • persons who earned substantially less than their previous job or earned less than the market salary for the area of study

(Read the article by U.S. Department of Labor, Rising Mal-Employment and the Great Recession)

The transitions in the labor force led people to journey to new career pathways within the industry they were mal-employed–a commonality during the great recession igniting “upskilling” and online education. Well, our present state of the workforce mimics much the same…

There are more than 26.5 million Americans presently unemployed, the workforce ecosystem has a tremendous responsibility to engage the labor force. It hasn’t come as a surprise, but it certainly comes with challenges and lessons from the Great Recession. The lessons revealed that most of the education attained for upskilling was accessed as part-time enrollments by working-class citizens. Education was obtained from either public 2-year colleges or private for-profit institutions (23.9% and 29.1% respectively of total distance/online learning enrollments). These facts are further validated by comparing the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) historical data on employment and online education participation rates.table1

During the Great Recession of 2007-2010, the U.S. Department of Education reported an increase in the number and percentage of individuals enrolled in distance learning or online education programs compared to the prior reported years; See Table 1. The increase in distance learning and online education enrollments directly correlated with the U.S. Department of Labor’s 2009 report on Mal-Employment Rates disseminated by industry type/major field of study; See Chart 1. That’s an interesting fact.Chart1

The point is that the impacts of COVID-19 have toppled labor-market stability. Workforce regions will need more than a rapid response initiative to re-employ the 26.5 million Americans who experienced a job loss. The charge to re-employ is insurmountable. Now more than ever, access to quality online and hybrid education opportunities through leading education entities will be at the forefront of re-employment operations, along with transitioning the sectors of the workplace to the virtual space. 

Alas, there is HOPE! But keep in mind that mal-employment will persist just as with the Great Recession. And yet again, our point-of-access for upskilling into high-demand careers will evolve due to the increase in career professionals seeking engaging opportunities to complete single-course, short-certificate, or accelerated bachelor’s degree programs. Simply put, HOPE is unlimited global access to education and career skills development which invests in ample career opportunities.

[A pause as I ponder that notion.]

…reminds me of “Education for the Masses,” a concept established from the labor market transformations experienced at the start of the 1900s. (Read resources by Goldin & Katz, 2008). Eureka! I guess it’s true… History does have an interesting way of repeating itself…

Rise-and-Shine! A change in our experiences will ultimately change our attitudes and behaviors. The unexpected changes will yield a different and transformative result for the workforce ecosystem (Read Change the Culture Change the Game, Connors & Smith, 1999/2011). We have work to do, but it’s not without compassion for the greater good of humanity.

Fortified Learning Solutions. We create sustainable learning strategies at the precipice of workforce engagement.

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