An Open Letter To The Leadership Of Career Education Colleges and Universities
The immeasurable devastation caused by COVID-19 to the United States presents monumental challenges for every facet of American life. As cities, counties and states begin the rebuilding process, it is a patriotic imperative that CECU and its member schools showcase their strengths, which include, but are not limited to, being the largest and fastest system in the world in re-training adult learners for a mobilized workforce and play an active role in rebuilding our country.
It is common knowledge that COVID-19 disproportionately affected lower income and less educated communities, the primary communities CECU serves. When manufacturing went overseas, the CECU schools stayed. When service jobs moved to the suburbs, the CECU schools stayed. All communities, but especially our most vulnerable, need a holistic, comprehensive health services strategy as well as overall worker re-training strategies given the record unemployment numbers, many of whom will not be hired back to their old jobs. Moreover, given the jobs inequality, the majority of those lost [and many not to return] jobs will be disproportionately concentrated in disadvantaged communities.
I am not a public health expert; however, I do know that there has been and is a chronic shortage of health care workers. The DOD excluded, the only institution(s) in our country that can recruit, mobilize and deploy qualified and highly skilled workers at scale are CECU schools. This chronic shortage of qualified workers is rapidly becoming a national security issue that must resolved with the highest sense of urgency. Why? Because of what I call (3-2W) three two W’s as outlined below.
1. Workforce Unemployment
Prior to COVID-19, 2030 projections revealed a shortage of 20K-40K physicians, 600K – 1MM nurses and 3.5MM -11MM long term care providers. COVID-19 has exposed this shortage. COVID-19 has hit the leisure, travel and hospitality sector especially hard, with 47% (7.7MM) jobs affected by COVID. Pundits estimate that 20% will not come back.
CECU should play a pivotal role in crafting workforce development strategies to train and redeploy affected service workers into the health care sector. This is not for the individual; it is for the collective community. Our nation desperately needs workers and the old methods are not working. Without elaborating in detail, key tenets would include
How rapidly can we integrate advances in virtualization and simulation to create enhanced learning environments that can train highly capable workers in a third of the time?
A coordinated public/private partnership at the federal, state and local level with workforce placement goals is needed. Regulators, politicians and schools must create comprehensive standards, a cohesive message and incentives must be aligned.
Regulatory stakeholders must streamline efforts and consolidate policy to create much needed efficiencies. Remember, current policies are not working. As the adage says, “strike while the iron is hot”. They are eager for solutions and CECU has the DC lobbyists to sell the message.
2. War (or The Potential of It)
Using history as guide, our current geo-political climate is eerily similar to the forces that lead to WWII.
A “challenger” Super Power –(check)
Income Inequality –(check)
Trade War –(check)
Economic Uncertainty –(check)
If there was an official path to war checklist, we are checking all of the boxes. I hope and pray that tensions deescalate. But what if they do not? Are we prepared as a nation for a war? Are we prepared for a war on our soil? COVID-19 exposed America’s weaknesses, especially in mobilizing responses when emergencies hit our soil.
The question is not are we prepared but rather can we afford NOT to be prepared?
Once again, a comprehensive workforce redeployment strategy will begin to shore up preparedness in the case of a national emergency while simultaneously chipping away at economic uncertainty and income inequality.
3. Waves- The Other Two W’s
1. The Second Wave (experts agree this is not the last Pandemic virus). Our current staffing shortages will be exponentially exacerbated by a second wave as there will be pipeline delays in producing qualified talent to the workforce. I assume that CECU schools are a part of local or state level planning. If there is not a committee examining this on the national level, there needs to be. Because:
2. The Big Wave – (The Silver Tsunami)
By 2035, the U.S. Census Bureau projects senior citizens will outnumber youth for the first time in U.S. history. People age 65 and over are expected to reach 78 million, while youth under the age of 18 will number 76.4 million. Paul Osterman, MIT Professor and author of Who Will Care For Us? Long Term Care and Long-Term Care Workforce states by 2030, there will be a shortfall of 3.8MM paid and unpaid long-term care givers.
Home care aides, CNAs and long-term care providers have been previously classified as low skill, low wage work and have not been afforded the training, status and pay necessary to attract qualified workers to this field. There are many factors at play here (bureaucracy, politics, nursing unions, etc.) that inhibit the upgrading of this work to address this issue, but there are examples of community health systems that have upgraded the status and pay of these workers and they have witnessed increase in the quality of health care delivered.
CECU | The Nation Calls
CECU schools can and must play a pivotal role in creating the training and certifications necessary to upgrade these essential roles at scale.
I openly ask the CECU Leadership to play an active role in ensuring that our nation is prepared to take care of the holistic health care needs of all Americans, but especially the communities that are in dire need qualified workers. An unintended consequence of COVID-19 is the lack of a national health care workforce readiness strategy. That coupled with the massive general need to retrain our workforce in the face of depression era unemployment levels suggests these events are calling for CECU to take aggressive and immediate action. Our nation needs us. What will we say we did 10 years from now when our nation needed us the most?
About the Author:
Terrence Thomas is an “Old Vet” both literally and figuratively. After transitioning from the military 22 years ago, he co-founded GI Bill Express.com (acquired by Military.com) and has held executive marketing leadership roles at Military.com and EducationDynamics . He currently serves as the leader of High Intent Marketing, (a division of PMA Media Group).