By Nadia Ramlagan, Tennessee Public News Service
Millions of jobs across the U.S. have vanished in the months since the coronavirus pandemic began, and many Tennesseans may have to gain new skills, or refresh the ones they have, to stay afloat.
New research from Lumina Foundation finds more workers in the state are completing industry certifications.
Carol Puryear, president of the Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Murfreesboro, says certifications are typically centered around associations and career clusters.
“You’ve got CompTIA, who works with the computer industry,” she points out. “You’ve got MSSC that works with the manufacturing folks. You’ve got NCCER. You’ve got all types of industries.”
Puryear adds that certifications typically take less time and money to earn than degrees, and can improve job prospects.
According to the Lumina Foundation report, about 45% of Tennesseans now hold some form of post-high school credential, compared to the national average of about 51%.
Puryear, who is also vice chancellor for economic and community development at the Tennessee Board of Regents, points out that many tech schools embed industry certifications into their programs.
“For instance, I have an automotive program, I have probably right at 50 students, and all of those students are going to also be working on their Auto Service Excellence, which is ASE certification — which are critical for them to get a job in the automotive industry when they graduate,” she points out.
Puryear stresses there are resources available for anyone who might not have the funds to pursue an industry certification.
“I have a saying that says, ‘The pink slip is not the end, it could be the beginning,’” she states. “And I encourage people to visit the American Job Centers across Tennessee, because those people have dollars that can help send people back to school.”
Black and Latino workers are among those most likely to have lost reliable income because of COVID-19. The Lumina Foundation report shows these groups also are less likely to have post-secondary education or qualifications.
In Tennessee, around 28% of Black residents and 20% of Latino residents have some form of higher education, compared to nearly 40% of white residents.