By Dr. Edward C. Ortell
Citrus College Governing Board Member

While scholars debate whether the Chinese word for “crisis” in fact translates to “danger plus opportunity” — a longstanding popular meme — most people would agree that those in crisis situations are wise to seek out any and all opportunities.

Today, with the pandemic continuing, vaccines for most still out of reach, and schools and businesses closed, the prospects for those unemployed may seem grim. However, within reach are opportunities that could lead to a brighter future than ever before.

In March 2020, the National Bureau of Economic Research found that more than 70 million low-wage workers had the skills to perform higher-paying jobs. At the same time, employers are beginning to identify skills that overlap for workers in other industries, such as attention to detail and good customer service. Those skills, combined with specialized career training, can make a job applicant look very appealing.

Recognizing skills students already have and combining them with training to acquire good paying jobs is nothing new for California’s community colleges. What is new is that community colleges are providing strategies to specifically help students acquire career skills during COVID-19. In addition to a variety of career exploration tools and online resources, including virtual internships, community colleges are also offering certificate programs that prepare students for today’s workplace.

One such program is the new certificate in administrative office occupations at Citrus College. According to the college’s website, students who receive the certificate “…are prepared for management assignments in the business office environment. This certificate is recommended for both experienced office staff as well as entry-level office workers seeking to increase their potential for promotion. The courses leading to this certificate provide training in office information systems, human relations, business communications, and business records management.”

And, the perks of virtual community college attendance are many. In addition to the low cost of community college, the ability to take courses from home and the flexibility of online instruction make virtual courses accessible. Community colleges also have rolling admissions and hybrid courses in many programs, as well as online tutoring, counseling and financial aid.

A viable pathway to economic recovery for our region is the retraining of workers who will be rehired for jobs currently in demand. This will result in the reopening of businesses and services and a return to the life we hold dear. The end of this crisis is on the horizon. Now it’s time to seek out the opportunities.

Dr. Edward C. Ortell is professor emeritus at Pasadena City College and a community college textbook author. He has served as the executive director of the Pasadena Education Association and as a member of the California Community College Trustees state board of directors.