The pandemic has introduced us to words like social distancing, quarantine, contactless, and WFH (working from home) that have made our heads swim as we navigate the uncharted waters of COVID-19. Businesses and organizations have had to pivot to create re-opening plans and flexible work opportunities as they try to instill a sense of normalcy that is anything but that.
The College of Central Florida is no different. Like businesses that had to adjust, CF quickly moved from delivering 36 percent of classes online to 95 percent fully online in 10 days, and recently configured the fall semester to offer mostly online classes for students.
CF is in step with the community and is prepared to support workers who have found themselves unemployed. Misfortune can lead to opportunity and those individuals must pivot quickly, too. Approximately 8 percent of our county’s residents are currently unemployed, and there are businesses in our community that have open positions that persistently go unfilled. CF has a strong commitment to providing an equitable education to everyone, with additional supports for those who experience significant barriers to access. We are ready to provide supports, now more than ever.
The College of Central Florida is an essential part of the solution and can help displaced workers get back on track through programs that are short term (less than 18 weeks) and provide entry into the workforce as quickly as possible. Academic programs with quick entry into a career include emergency medical technician, logistics/transportation specialist, accounting technology specialist and computer data specialist. There are also upskill opportunities in health, engineering technology and manufacturing. And CF has short-term training in entrepreneurship through an upcoming collaboration with Ocala/Marion County Chamber and Economic Partnership.
Recently, the Florida Department of Education launched a Rapid Credentials initiative as a direct response to the thousands of unemployed people who formerly held jobs that turned out to be non-essential during the pandemic. Those areas include leisure and hospitality, accommodations, personal care service and retail. This initiative targets displaced workers or can help those who want to elevate themselves in their current job.
We are fortunate to have employers in our community who are experiencing growth, and our academic programs are strategically aligned to those industries. Residents affected by the pandemic desperately need to get back to work, and for some workers this might be a perfect opportunity to reskill or upskill to elevate to the next career level. What is particularly ideal now is that these programs are rapid and many are contactless. They can be completed in under one year and many are fully online to ensure the safety of individuals who need flexibility while gaining more skills.
CF also continues to explore and plan several new apprenticeship programs that are ideal for students to earn and learn simultaneously – a win for students and employers!
Individuals who are interested in hearing more are invited drop in online during CF’s virtual Open House Wednesday, July 29, from 10 a.m.-noon or 2-5 p.m. Admissions officers and Financial Aid specialists will be on hand to answer questions. For more information visit www.CF.edu/OpenHouse.
Dr. Jennifer Fryns is associate vice president of Career and Professional Programs at the College of Central Florida.