The role of higher education in the era of the great resignation



Hidden behind hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 deaths in the United States, the failure of thousands of businesses, pervasive remoteness, and locked-in lifestyle have resulted in a tidal wave of worker resignations form an ocean to another. As Anthony Klotz, an organizational psychologist at Texas A&M University who coined the term ‘the big resignation,’ observes: ‘During the pandemic, because there were a lot of deaths and illnesses and blockages, we really had the time and motivation to sit down and say, ‘Am I enjoying the trajectory of my life? Am I pursuing a life that brings me well-being? ‘ “

As safe practices and vaccinations begin to take hold of this evil scourge, reducing the upsurge in deaths, one would expect American workers to rejoice in the return to the workplace and a circle of workers. ‘familiar friends and culture. On the contrary, as Derek Thompson writes in Atlantic: “Look at what we have: a nice push to the outside. Migration to the suburbs has accelerated. More and more people are quitting their jobs to start something new. Before the pandemic, the office was for many the last physical community to leave, especially as church attendance and association membership declined. But now even our office relationships are scattered. The Great Resignation is gaining momentum, and it has created a centrifugal moment in American economic history.

It has become evident that for a growing number of Americans there is no turning back to what it was before 2019. Gigantic office buildings, work booths, conversations about water coolers, rigid working hours, massive rush hours and cascading career paths are disappearing. . What are resigning workers looking for? Of course, there is not a single answer. However, the mental health strain from the COVID plague and the myriad ripples across our society have taken its toll on millions of people. Taylor Telford and Aaron Gregg report in The Washington Post,

Workers are quitting at or near record levels in nearly every industry tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics since 2001. But the pains are most acute among low-wage workers, who economists say are revolting over years of bad wages and stressful conditions. . Many are now less willing to put up with inconvenient hours and low pay and are giving up at this point in the pandemic to find better opportunities elsewhere. Almost 40 percent of workers who quit in August worked in restaurants and hotels. Resignations are also skyrocketing among manufacturing and warehouse workers, who are under pressure from growing demand and shrinking supply chains.

McKinsey surveyed all industries and found that while those in the restaurant and hospitality industries were stop in large numbers, it was not at all limited to these areas or only to the United States:

Executives who think employee attrition is decreasing – or is limited to particular industries – is wrong. Forty percent of employees in our survey said they were at least somewhat likely to quit within the next three to six months. Eighteen percent of respondents said their intentions ranged from likely to almost certain. These results are valid across the five countries we surveyed (Australia, Canada, Singapore, UK and US) and were broadly consistent across all industries (Table 1). Businesses in the leisure and hospitality industry are most at risk of losing employees, but many healthcare workers and white-collar workers say they are also considering quitting. Even among educators – the employees least likely to say they could quit – almost a third said they were at least fairly likely to do so.

Of the millions of people who have quit their jobs in recent months and those expected to continue this trend until the end of the year, how can higher education help them retrain, upgrade or change? career paths to better meet their needs? We have some clues as to what they want. As expected, more income seems to be among the factors they are looking for.

Evergreen Dimes conducted a study using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, O * NET and PayScale to compile a list of “40 well-paying careers in demand for the next 10 years. “

This can be a good starting point for designing short online courses, stackable certificates, and programs that can lead to a relevant degree. Of course, the programs should offer the kind of flexibility these prospective students want. They should present universal design principles that serve all students. Remember that many of these adults quit their jobs in part to escape the rigidity and lack of prospects for advancement of their former workplaces.

However, it’s not all about money and flexibility. Over the past two years, we have seen time and again that an empathetic and supportive work culture is highly valued by employees. The pandemic has advances the importance of well-being, inclusion, innovation and entrepreneurship. We need to ensure that we model these practices in the delivery of all programs.

Of course, programs need to be online, affordable, accessible, relevant, and strongly supported by academics, advisors and technical staff.

Who on your campus is tracking the demographics and needs of those engaged in the Great Resignation? Are administrators and faculty aware of the emergence of this growing segment of the workforce? Is your institution agile enough to design new programs to meet the needs of the millions of workers who have abandoned it in their current jobs?


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