Upskilling and reskilling the workforce may be needed post-pandemic

Coronavirus

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC/WFXR) — The pandemic may permanently change the job market. The latest jobs forecast may be worrisome for anyone with a high school diploma or less. In addition, it appears some jobs in hospitality and retail may never come back.  

As a result, some business experts say the U.S. is going to have to upskill or reskill its workforce. 

Jake Maniaci took it upon himself to do just that in the midst of the pandemic. Maniaci was a steel plant manager in Ohio when the pandemic hit.  

“It was really grueling work, a lot of sweat, a lot of dirt. I enjoyed the work but I didn’t feel gratified from it,” said Maniaci.

Maniaci decided to take a coding boot camp and career prep program with education provider Tech Elevator. He went from steel plant manager to software engineer in just 14 weeks.

“I thought it was really cool to make a computer do and say what you wanted it to,” he said.

The Tech Elevator coursework helped the marine veteran land what he calls a pandemic-proof career supporting tech projects for the U.S. Navy-Marine Corps in Virginia.  

“This is a job you can do from home, I am currently home right now,” said Maniaci.

Tech Elevator has campuses in several cities including Charlotte, Columbus, and Philadelphia. Yet students from all over the country can take their classes with their virtual learning programs.

Rita Stall is campus director for Tech Elevator’s national live remote cohort.  

“We bring them in, we train them up and reskill them to be software developers,” she said.

According to Stall, the future is in tech jobs.

“The recent data is showing that the demand for technical talent is growing at five times the national for occupational growth about 22%.”

The recent employment projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show a boom for tech and health-related jobs. However, it also predicts the pandemic may devastate restaurant, retail and hotel jobs.

Some careers forecasted to see the biggest changes in employment by 2029 are cashiers, restaurant hosts, servers, and bartenders, as well as hotel and motel clerks.  

“I think we are going to also have to realize that a lot of the jobs that disappeared aren’t coming back,” said U.S. Sen. Mark Warner from Virginia.

Warner believes upskilling and retraining workers is essential to fixing the unemployment crisis in this fast-moving digital age. 

“I would argue we have seen 10 years of speeding up one year- working at home, learning at home, telehealth,” said Warner. 

The senator says there needs to be a cultural shift in the U.S. to support lifelong learning.

Shaun McAlmont, of Virginia-based Stride Incorporated, agrees. 

Stride, which offers online K-12 learning, recently expanded into adult career learning. In addition, Stride now oversees Tech Elevator; Galvanize, which offers coding and data science training; and MedCerts, which offers short-term online skills in healthcare.

McAlmont says an automation trend means upskilling is even needed in the booming health industry.

“Nurses, technicians, others working in the modern workplace have to understand how to communicate like we are right now, so communicating virtually with their teams,” he said.

Warner proposes changes in the tax code to provide employers incentives to invest in their workers.

“Right now, our tax system so favors a company buying a robot rather than investing in a human being.”

The senator believes there should be a research and development tax credit to humans to upskill.

According to McAlmont, this would be a win for employers too.

“If they can keep upskilling their talent, they will retain them,” McAlmont said.

Warner believes lawmakers missed an opportunity to direct funding for job training in this latest COVID-19 relief bill. However, he says it does include $350 billion for state and local governments.

In addition, Warner says he hopes the Commonwealth and Virginia localities will use some of that money for programs focused on reskilling those who may never see their pre-pandemic jobs come back.

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