Cities invest in job training programs to aid pandemic recovery

Both San Antonio and Chicago recently unveiled programs meant to incentivize higher education and jobs training for out-of-work citizens


A recent AP-NORC poll doesn't bode well for the future employment prospects of millions of Americans. 

In April, 78% of those in households with a job loss due to COVID-19 thought layoffs would be temporary. Fast forward several months, however, and a whopping 47% no longer have such a rosy outlook, now believing those losses are likely to be permanent.

As the Associated Press points out, that translates "into roughly 10 million workers needing to find a new employer, if not new occupation" all together. 

As the pandemic advances into another month, more and more Americans are worried that the jobs they lost earlier this year won't be coming back at all, according to a recent AP-NORC poll. Image: David McNew/Getty Images via TNS
As the pandemic advances into another month, more and more Americans are worried that the jobs they lost earlier this year won't be coming back at all, according to a recent AP-NORC poll. Image: David McNew/Getty Images via TNS

Training a more resilient workforce

While restaurant workers, hotel housekeepers and cashiers at stadiums, for example, are finding opportunities limited as the pandemic continues, there are other openings out there, as long as you have the training. 

That's why the cities of San Antonio and Chicago recently announced programs aimed at making that training possible for those most in-need. 

'Earn while you learn'

Through a partnership with Alamo Colleges, the City of San Antonio is striving to help 10,000 people get certified in COVID-19 resilient fields like healthcare, information technology, manufacturing, welding or construction. 

"Somebody could receive training and be a certified nurses aide in as little as five months," said Alamo Colleges District Chancellor Dr. Mike Flores.

Back in June, the City Council voted to spend the biggest share of its CARES Act funding on workforce development, allocating $70 million to not only train people for more stable jobs, but also pay them as they learn. Eligible students will be paid $450 per week while they complete their programs.

College student Ericka Davila told News4 San Antonio that she was glad to see a stipend introduced as part of the program. "[It] honestly eases tensions at home, because a lot of the classmates that I do know, they have at least one or two kids and not only is it them that were furloughed or laid off, it's both of them," she said.

Providing a 'fresh start' through student debt forgiveness

Earlier this month, the City of Chicago announced a program aimed at getting students back in the college classroom. Through Fresh Start, former City Colleges students who never completed their degrees, but left in good standing, have the opportunity to erase their student debts by re-enrolling and ultimately graduating. 

“Too often student debt stands in the way of people’s lives and futures,” said City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Juan Salgado. “This is no time to stop, no time to take a gap year, especially for students from our local communities.”

Salgado said earning a degree could provide many with improved prospects in the current economy, pointing to a marked decline in the number of jobs not requiring a degree but increasing opportunities for those who do have one. 

As many as 21,000 former students who owe a combined $17 million in debt qualify for the program, he pointed out. Of those students, 51% are Black and 34% are Latino, many coming from neighborhoods most impacted by the economic effects of the virus.

“With debt they can't register for courses, they can’t complete their certificate or degree, and most likely won't be part … of the recovery,” Salgado said.

 
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According to Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the Fresh Start program is part of the city's larger push to tackle poverty and promote equity.

“This is about furthering our citywide commitment to educating Chicagoans, no matter their age or circumstances when they left the City Colleges of Chicago system,” she said.

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