More than 38 million Americans are out of work due to COVID-19 - the highest unemployment numbers since the Great Depression. Workforce boards around the country are dealing with new challenges including restructuring the job training services and programs they offer.
Mark Plunkett, Senior Director, Strategic Business Development & Training Operations, Custom Training Solutions for CompTIA, works closely with workforce boards. They are sharing with him their struggles but also expressing optimism about how they can use this time to be more innovative. During a recent video discussion with Julian Alvarez, Commissioner, representing Texas Workforce Commission; Dale Robertson, Director, Workforce Initiatives with the Texas Workforce Commission and Mardy Leathers, Director, Workforce Development, State of Missouri, Plunkett commended the boards for their efforts and the strides they are taking as their work is absolutely critical to the individuals within their communities.
“Lots of in person training stopped overnight with COVID-19 and it’s been a tough time for many navigating the new landscape and seeing how they can make the best of the situation,” Plunkett stated. “We found out that some communities and boards were not set up for virtual offerings but that others were actually further ahead and have been able to flip the switch to move some of the offerings to being virtual.”
According to Plunkett, virtual training can be very effective and very successful. It can be even more successful than in person training if it’s delivered in the right way. Making it interactive, hands on and utilizing labs is extremely important as is talking about the technologies and how they play out in the real world. “Giving real life examples, providing that holistic approach and assuring there’s an outcome is the key to all training,” Plunkett explained.
CompTIA has been consulting with workforce investment boards, workforce leaders and government agencies for a number of years, providing custom solutions depending on local needs. “We typically consult with boards around a few different areas. What is the local industry asking for? What is the local job market saying? And then we can provide a sustainable, scalable solution to meet that need.”
The custom training program offers fully customizable, accelerated courses that typically utilize the CompTIA certifications and a CompTIA exam. “The training is very much job focused mirroring the workplace. So, we are enhancing employment opportunities on the back of that. Our custom offerings are inclusive of labs which is really important so individuals can really touch the kit and simulate environments, and performance-based questions as well.”
Since virtual training is not new to CompTIA, it has been easy to help partners make the adjustment. “The offerings we have are fully virtual online instructor trained which have the rigor of in-class training with all of the support, collateral and tools for individuals to be successful,” Plunkett shared.
CompTIA also offers a mentored learning approach that empowers the workforce with flexible and focused IT learning, while providing a scalable option that meets local demand to build the talent pipeline. This program allows flexibility for individuals to sign up, learn and certify on their own time and at their own pace with CompTIA Official Content, access to a Learning Management System (LMS), exam preparation tools, virtual labs and performance-based question. In addition to self-paced learning, individuals have the opportunity to communicate with CompTIA certified experts either one-on-one or as part of scheduled live virtual workshops that focus on critical IT skills, ensuring they have the best chance to be successful. The centralized LMS allows for regular reporting on activity that creates opportunity for CompTIA instructors to be proactive in engaging individuals who may be hesitant to take advantage of additional resources.
These are unique and challenging times for everyone, and Plunkett says his main goal is to enable the workforce boards to serve their communities. “We are here to help and we’re all in this together. It’s inspiring to see so many innovative approaches being offered, and we want to be at the forefront in offering those to workforce boards, to state leaders, to any other organization that needs our help at this time.
“In Q1, there were over 1 million core IT job postings by U.S. employers and there simply aren’t enough skilled workers to fill these jobs. We really want to provide those on ramps and to support in any way we can to build that pipeline to get individuals successful, high paying IT careers. When the time comes, we understand that the time for action will be different for each community, for each board, for each state. Tech is a very robust industry and can be a great chance for individuals to get a successful career,” he concluded.