Planning for a Changing Labor Market

On-Demand Webinar | Watch Anytime

May 7, 2020
Planning for a Changing Labor Market

Shifting labor markets due to COVID-19 recovery require new data analyses to identify in-demand sectors. A panel of experts will discuss tools and approaches to accomplish that goal.

COVID-19 has thrust the higher education sector into disarray. In response, the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), Education Strategy Group (ESG), and The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) have joined forces to produce a series of policy-related webinars designed to help higher education leaders make the comeback that will be needed to accelerate COVID-19 recovery.   


  • Teresa Lubbers, Commissioner of Higher Education in Indiana
  • Todd Oldham, Vice President for Economic and Workforce Development and Career and Technical Education, Monroe Community College, Rochester, NY
  • Rob Sentz, Chief Innovation Officer, Economic Modeling Specialists, International (EMSI)


  • Matt Gandal, President and CEO of the Educational Strategy Group


  • This webinar addressed how community colleges can plan for changes in the labor market catalyzed by the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Below is a summary of discussion highlights, followed by time-coded audience questions and panel responses.

Discussion Highlights

Community colleges will play a crucial role in the economic recovery of this country. Through their long history of job training and retraining, developing new workforce programs to address emerging needs, and teaching students the skills needed for new job requirements, our colleges address the value proposition of higher education.

Retool, re-educate, and analyze labor market data

With 20% unemployment across the nation, community colleges can respond quickly to re-educate displaced workers through short-term certificates and training in today’s high-skilled jobs. In the face of uncertainty to combat the paralysis of the market by the COVID-19 pandemic, colleges use labor market data to focus on emerging new areas and collaborate with local industries about skills needed now.

Focus on equity

Community colleges are at the forefront of closing the socioeconomic gap with the most vulnerable populations, who are the same populations most impacted by the virus. Not only has COVID-19 exposed disparities, but data are also important to finding where the learning gaps are and where the greatest amount of disruptions are in the labor force. It is incumbent upon the college to double down in support of those returning to college with reinforced focus on equity issues by understanding the profile of students in our programs.

Program review and redesign

Community colleges are nimble with respect to redesigning programs. Right-sizing programs through program reviews aligned with industry needs can help colleges re-imagine program content, staffing, and accessibility and restructure offerings to be viable for adults. All programs can provide career relevance.  A crisis like the pandemic brings heightened awareness, and colleges need to help faculty articulate how program learning outcomes transfer to workplace skills. Industry needs to align with higher education.

Colleges will need to become more enterprise based, including the creation of shorter programs with a sharper focus on developing in-demand skills, with less of a traditional focus on certificates and degrees.  Marketing should target out-of-work adult students. Colleges should work with area organizations, the Workforce Investment Act, conduct outreach to employers, and ultimately strike the right balance of designing programs to meet current job demands and future workforce needs.

Questions & Answers

A number of questions posed to the speakers by moderator Matt Gandal, president and CEO of the Educational Strategy Group, dive into these issues and seek to arrive at concrete solutions and advice. The times below correspond with when the questions were asked during the webinar.  

5:55 In the face of uncertainty, how can post-secondary institutions use data for informed decision making, and are there any new steps that are being taken to continue that work during the current pandemic?

10:06 What are some specific state-level strategies that have been used to create pathways that lead to real economic opportunity?

14:10 What data sources should post-secondary leaders use right now to form a more comprehensive and dynamic picture of labor markets to inform decision making?

18:45 What data are being used at the institutional level to figure out what labor markets are going to be more in demand going forward? 

22:29 Where are the strongest opportunities for growth?

26:55 Early data during the pandemic has suggested that communities of color and low-income populations have been disproportionately impacted by job loss. What steps are currently being taken to ensure that those communities are not left further behind?

34:30 After the pandemic, there are likely going to be programs that no longer lead to strong economic opportunities. How are programs being scaled at the institutional- and state-level? 

38:40 Would you agree that this crisis has exacerbated the misalignment issues we’ve had between workforce and educational offerings?

48:30 How have grants at the state level allowed for flexibility in focusing on specific programs?

52:10 Who has the responsibility of advising out of work folks to consider a return to higher education to reskill or upskill? How are those individuals reached?


This webinar is part of a series developed in partnership with our longtime partners Education Strategy Group and the State Higher Education Executive Officers. It is designed to help community college leaders accelerate community colleges' recovery during a major crisis.