The coronavirus pandemic has put many people out of work and getting a job within the same industry might not be an option anymore for some people.
Arizona is now taking action and joining a national network that is working to find fast, innovative ways to reskill workers.
"COVID has certainly shown a very bright light on places where we have gaps," said Rachel Yanof.
Yanof is the Executive Director of the non-profit Achieve60AZ. Their goal is for 60% of adults to get a degree, a certificate, or a license to better their job opportunities by the year 2030.
"That's the vision and the dream for Arizona," Yanof said.
That goal was around long before COVID-19 started shining on those gaps and now, Yanof said, it is time to work even faster on finding solutions.
"Post-secondary education has been moving in all these really innovative ways already and now it's just given an accelerant, right," Yanof explained.
Achieve60AZ is one of more than a dozen organizations in the state that is now collaborating with a national effort called the "Reskilling and Recovery Network."
According to the Arizona Governor's Office, this is a coalition among 20 states in the country, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, and the American Association of Community Colleges, with support from the Lumina Foundation and the Siemens Foundation.
"It's... really exciting when there is intentionality from national partners and local partners to say, 'No one's going to do this alone,'" Yanof said.
In a statement, Governor Doug Ducey said:
“With many workers facing uncertainty due to the pandemic, we need a new approach to ensure all Arizonans have the skills and opportunity needed to thrive. The Reskilling and Recovery Network will help Arizonans strengthen their professional skills and learn new ones, and it will connect employers with talent across the state. I’m grateful to all our partners working to help Arizonans excel in their professions and return stronger from COVID-19.”
The office also listed out these partners who are apart of Arizona's efforts: Achieve60AZ, Arizona Commerce Authority’s Office of Economic Opportunity, Arizona Community College Coordinating Council, Greater Yuma EDC, Pinal County Economic and Workforce Development Department, The Boeing Company, and Arizona community colleges: Arizona Western College, Maricopa County Community College District, Pima Community College, and Yavapai College.
"We're talking about people who are maybe in their 40s and they've been working for 20 years and suddenly their job doesn't exist anymore," Yanof explained. "They've got to get a new job. They got to get reskilled and they probably have real commitments, like a mortgage or a family of two, or three, or four to feed, right? So, they don't have time to wait for us to figure it out. They really need that ability right now."
Yanof said all the partners are collaborating to find ways to fill gaps in education, like offering more flexible learning hours or seeing how to get technology out to those who need it so they can do online education.
She also said they want to find ways to recognize and appreciate a worker who has life experience.
"Maybe instead of saying, 'You have to go and sit in a classroom for X amount of time,' you can get that same learning through an apprenticeship... dual partnership where you're getting paid, but you're also earning those credits," Yanof suggested.
The Reskilling and Recovery Network is set to last for at least six months, but Yanof said there are already plans to keep it going.
Regardless, Yanof also said help is out there right now.
"Your community colleges are ready, your office of economic opportunity... they're ready to shepherd you through the process," Yanoff said. "So, don't wait, there is already opportunity. We're just getting better."
To reach out to Arizona Western College, click here: https://www.azwestern.edu
To reach out to the Maricopa County Community College District, click here: https://www.maricopa.edu
To reach out Pima Community College, click here: https://pima.edu
To reach out to Yavapai College, click here: https://www.yc.edu
To learn about opportunities from the Arizona Department of Economic Security, Arizona Commerce Authority, and the Arizona Office of Economic Development through their Arizona @ Work Program, click here.