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Women need programs that lead to high-wage jobs

If community colleges were serious about taking care of the communities that fund them, they’d be developing a large number of programs that lead to middle-wage jobs. And they’d be recruiting women into them.

Data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and analyzed by Third Way, a centrist Washington think tank, suggest that women are likely to suffer the brunt of technology-related job losses. While the BLS predicts about 450,000 men will lose their jobs due to automation over the next decade, nearly one million women will find themselves on the outside looking in.

Although the report characterized the women most at risk as “non-college” women, the reality is that many women employed in the verticals voted most likely to recede likely have an associate degree in their possession.

Among women employed in living wage occupations – executive secretaries, administrative assistants, office clerks, bookkeepers, customer service representatives, light manufacturing, and retail managers – are most likely to be replaced by automation and other technologies. These women will be behind the 8-ball, unless they can prepare themselves for jobs that can deliver income replacement.

I’ve never understood why community colleges don’t do a better job of delivering career counseling and career planning services. It’s a lot easier to prepare for an eventual job loss when you’re still employed. When you have the benefit of time, you can afford to make longer-term plans and better overall decisions about your future. When you’re already unemployed, you really don’t have that luxury.

What would this involve? It could be as simple as putting together a workshop series targeted toward people who are employed in threatened positions. It might involve making tools available to them to help them see the programs that can match or exceed their current income.

Training women now avoids future unemployment tsunami

And, of course, the college would also need to have programs that can deliver viable income replacement options. (That might involve reducing the Vice President budget to make more funding available for the stuff the community college is supposed to be doing.)

The time to help a million women and a half-million men is right now. Putting people to work in data analysis, clean energy, semiconductors, computer science, and other high-wage programs could put these people on a more sustainable, more viable career path. The alternative – waiting until the job market is flooded with limited-skill workers who need jobs immediately, doesn’t seem like a value-add for the community.

Photo Credit: Anton Pekuthov , via Flickr