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Future of Work: COVID-19’s short-term disruption will bring long-term changes

While we grapple with the ongoing economic effects of COVID-19, the immediate focus is on reopening businesses and returning people to work. But what about the long term? What repercussions will this disruption have on the future of work in the next three to five years?
That’s the question we’re asking at College of the Canyons, and posing to our partners in local business and industry. Peter Drucker famously said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” So, by looking ahead, we plan to be positioned to meet our area’s future workforce needs.
It’s clear that COVID-19 has accelerated the use of digitization and automation technologies in the workplace. Zoom was ubiquitously adopted, and ecommerce, already popular, became essential in the wake of store closures and social distancing. Long term, that means a new mix of jobs will emerge after the pandemic passes, one that will be different from what we saw before the pandemic hit.
Certain industries have proven to be resilient to COVID-19 in our service area. Advanced manufacturing, logistics, information technology, allied health, and entrepreneurship have remained strong in recent months.
As the workplace changes in the face of technology, and certain industry sectors surge, College of the Canyons will leverage its partnerships to develop and implement relevant programs that align with the skills needed by industry. These programs will be accelerated, flexible, affordable, and accessible online, with minimal administrative burden for students.
College of the Canyons is well-positioned to address the challenges and opportunities pertaining to the future of work. Already, we are creating innovative ways for delivering instruction, and providing career pathways for those who seeking employment in this new economy. The Uniquely-Abled Academy trains students with high-functioning autism to become CNC machinists, positions that are highly in demand among local advanced manufacturing companies. Our Google IT Help Desk Certification program equips learners for entry-level information technology positions.
We are also hard at work on new collaborative programs that promise to enable local companies to expand and to create new employment opportunities for students. A partnership with America’s Job Center of California will place 30 individuals in a training program that will qualify them for jobs as HVAC technicians with a local company. We’re also using a state Employment Training Panel fund to train workers for the food distribution industry sector. As ecommerce generates logistics and fulfillment positions, a forklift operator simulation program will train displaced workers to fill these jobs, and a new Certified Logistics Associate Program instills the basics of supply chain management, a skill in demand by employers across several industry sectors.
While the future of work may not be entirely clear, we do know it promises change. At College of the Canyons, we are committed to creating the programs needed to ensure our region can withstand the challenges of COVID-19 and is ready for the future of work so our residents, students and businesses can prosper.
Dr. Dianne Van Hook serves as Chancellor of College of the Canyons.