The emergence of the novel coronavirus has reshaped work as employers and workers once knew it, casting more emphasis on what is being completed and less focus on where it’s being done.
At many companies, technological advances empowered employees to be able to complete their work from home. During a webinar this morning hosted by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber about “work after COVID-19,” Susana Schowen, director of workforce initiatives at Louisiana Economic Development FastStart, said one of the most interesting things she’s seen during the pandemic is just how productive people are working remotely. The increased attention to remote working also creates opportunities for rural workers, who no longer have to commute for job opportunities.
“The challenge is in making people aware of where good job opportunities are and how to get the training to get them,” Schowen says.
Girard Melancon, vice chancellor for workforce solutions at Baton Rouge Community College, notes that just like health disparities have been spotlighted by COVID-19, disparities in job access have become clearer in light of the pandemic.
However, Melancon says the Capital Region’s economic development infrastructure is robust. BRAC and LED are looking to stay ahead of the curve and pivot if needed, and their business partners are keeping the organizations abreast of their needs.
Among the things that workforce development officials will need to keep an eye on is the economic impact of near-retirees who must remain in the workforce longer because of losses in their retirement savings due to the economic fallout from COVID-19, Melancon says. He also referred to a February article by Forbes, which predicted more than 120 million people will need up-skilling or re-skilling in the next three years. Meanwhile, the average length of training needed to close skills gaps has increased from 3 days to 36 days in the past five years.
“How do we support older workers in the workforce and how do we help them pivot in jobs?” Melancon says.
Schowen agrees that developing technological skills will be increasingly important for Louisiana workers.
“Every job is a technology job,” Schowen says, noting that the best advice she could give job seekers right now is to gain digital skills.