Have you started to think about what life will look like in the fall of 2021 and beyond? COVID-19 vaccines are being administered to masses of Americans right now. If predictions are accurate, we should begin to see restrictions lifted even further and economic recovery slowly begin in the months ahead. What will the new normal look like?
Without ruminating on the negatives of 2020, we must look at what the pandemic year taught us. One of the major outcomes from COVID-19 is the adaptation of technology and digitization. Consumers turned to online interactions for everything from ordering toilet paper to connecting with healthcare providers. A recent study referenced by the Aspen Institute estimates e-commerce grew by 25% during the first six months of the COVID-19 crisis. Companies forced to shut down or curb in-person retail business adapted digital platforms for order, delivery, customer service and supply acquisition. Social distancing inside manufacturing facilities forced new automation and change to be implemented at increased speed.
Other adverse economic issues included skyrocketed unemployment in many sectors, especially those where low-wage, young and minority workers held jobs. Schools closed, creating more challenges for working parents of school-age children. Essential workers were given little reprieve to deal with challenges, but forced to move ahead with increased barriers.
Why are these outcomes important to consider in adult education? Because it is likely the population that we serve are those hardest hit by the challenges of the pandemic. Many businesses that employ low-wage, low-skilled workers may not reopen. Restaurants, hotels, travel service providers, and food production companies have been particularly hard hit. Likely, many of those that do return have found ways to interact with customers through automated applications and may never return to full pre-pandemic business models. Our adult learners may need to learn new skills for new workplaces. In fact, a recent study completed by the Strada Education Network found one-third of workers think they will need additional education and training to get a new job.
Adult educators often play important and critical roles in changing outcomes for adult learners, especially those displaced by economic disparity. As we recover from this pandemic, we will be asked to help learners identify jobs that are in demand in our specific geographic areas, help navigate job listings, conduct job searches, build resumes and referrals and more. KET is proud to offer efficient, relevant resources to assist you and your learners in making positive educational and workplace skill gains. Check out FastForward for comprehensive preparation for high school equivalency credential tests with proven results; Workplace Essential Skills to engage learners in skills needed to explore and build academic skills for new workplaces and KET.org/AdultEd for more resources.