Whether or not you’re having an “economic recovery” depends on who you are. The Washington Post summed it up succinctly:
“Americans with college degrees fully recovered all pandemic job losses by May, while Americans without college degrees remain 4.5 million jobs below pre-pandemic levels.”
Even as more and more companies realize that the jobs they’re trying to fill don’t really require college degrees, America continues to have two economies: one for those with college educations, and one for those without. Our economic prospects, our political affiliations, even our health outcomes can depend on whether we have a college degree listed on our resume.
“The job losses for (non-college educated) groups are still worse than anything college-educated Americans ever experienced during the pandemic,” the Post notes.
While in theory there are enough job openings for every American, the Post reports, it’s not that simple. Many people don’t live where companies are hiring. Remote work is a possibility - if you have access to the right technology, understand the systems that companies use to fill positions, and are qualified for a job that can be done remotely.
Perhaps most challenging for many people is that the industries they were working in prior to the pandemic have not recovered. They can’t just “go back to work” because the jobs they were working no longer exist. They need new opportunities.
The good news is that many of these issues are solvable: research shows that there are significant economic benefits to giving workers Community College credentials, even if they don’t end up with a full degree. Industry valued certifications can be enough to make a significant difference. Career education pays off.
New models of education, like Competency Based Education, are making credentials like that more accessible to more diverse groups of people. Calbright uses Competency Based Education, and we’re extremely proud that our students are as diverse as the state of California.
If we train more people for the kind of jobs that can be worked remotely, and give them access to the technology (Calbright can loan laptops and mobile hotspots for students who need them), then we can get more people into the economy that is recovering from the pandemic. This is an achievable goal.
The alternative is to watch the education gap keep growing – and see a deeply inequitable economic system entrenched.