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

COVID-19 has changed our society and our world in many ways. The nature of the 21st century workplace is a prime example.

The pandemic has forced businesses in almost every sector to adopt new tools and techniques. New ways of doing things have permanently changed the nature and future of work.

Pre-pandemic, telecommuting was on a slow but steady march toward greater acceptability. It has now been shown to be an effective business model for many businesses. Decreased employer costs and greater employee satisfaction are just two benefits that have made telecommuting the new norm for many businesses.

Upskilling — refining current skills or acquiring new ones — help workers stay relevant in their current occupation. Reskilling — learning entirely new skills — prepares workers to do a different job, often within the same company. This type of training is now seen by many experts as an absolute necessity for workers and businesses who wish to be successful and competitive. Amazon and MasterCard have already invested heavily in upskilling and reskilling for their current employees.

But what if you don’t work for a corporate giant? How can workers across the employment spectrum adapt to the new workplace and at minimum personal cost?

Noncredit courses offered at local community colleges, such as Citrus College, serving the greater San Gabriel Valley, offer training intended for students who want to gain general knowledge, learn a new skill or upgrade existing ones. And many are tuition free.

Citrus College offers noncredit classes in short-term vocational programs with high-employment potential, workforce preparation and English as a Second Language, to name just a few. While not applicable toward a degree, upon completion of required classes, students can earn a noncredit certificate of competency or completion. Courses include Microsoft Office Applications, computer keyboarding and document processing, heating and air conditioning and a great many others. There’s even an introductory course in online learning that prepares students to become successful online learners.

Is it possible to future-proof your career? Maybe not entirely, but the key to staying competitive will certainly mean broadening your skills base, layering on new skills and keeping them fresh. The new workforce reality is already here — noncredit courses will give you the skills to thrive.

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 (CCCT) state board of directors.