As more companies announce plans to have employees work remotely part-time or full-time, questions are starting to emerge about how to prepare new graduates to start their careers remotely, as well as how to make sure returning students have the resources they need to hit the ground running when it’s time to take the next step in their careers.
Jamie Orr, Founder of Workforce & Distributed Economic Development Consulting, is working with Corneilus Brown, ICT-DM Regional Director in the Greater Sacramento Region, on a pilot project that will focus on helping faculty equip students with the tools they need to be successful in a remote work environment. Orr and Brown launched the project at the recent webinar “Preparing Students for the Future of Remote Work,” attended by more than 30 faculty and administrators.
Orr cited a Gartner survey that found 80% of companies plan to allow employees to work remotely at least part-time moving forward, while 47% of companies will allow full-time remote work. At the same time, the gig economy and independent employment continue to grow, giving people even more control over their work environments.
These changes have happened very quickly over the past year and education has not had time to catch up, Orr said. However, she believes there’s still time for community colleges to step in and take the lead when it comes to remote workforce development.
“I do think that it’s a huge opportunity for a higher education system like the California community colleges to jump in and work with employers to say, ‘We want our students to have these jobs, and we’re willing to make sure they’re prepared, so this is going to be the piece that we can help with in order to make sure that there’s a really good transition from education to career,’” Orr said.
Remote work also offers opportunities for companies to focus on equity and inclusion by hiring students from outside their immediate area. Orr sees opportunities here for community college students, particularly those in rural areas.
“When we’re talking about regions like the northern California region, which has a lot of rural communities, it really opens up a broader range of job options when people can look for jobs beyond what’s within the commute distance,” Orr said. “Secondary and rural economic regions can see a big boon if their residents and community members can actually take higher-wage jobs or just other jobs in general from regions that are outside of their own.”
Orr and Brown are working on a three-phase project that will include a report on the future of remote work and how it applies to community college students, curriculum recommendations and materials on remote work competencies, professional development for faculty, and interviews with people working remotely.
Taken together, they hope these resources will help integrate remote work into workforce development education and help students thrive in this new and rapidly-changing world.
“Job seeking is a pretty daunting task to begin with, but how do you even know what to look for when it’s looking for a remote-specific job, job titles, those types of things,” Orr said. “Educational systems can focus on key competencies—like what is specific to remote work that we may be missing right now, or maybe just needs to be tweaked slightly in the existing curriculum, in order to have students feel confident and prepared when going into a remote work environment.”
Brown said three colleges have already shown interest in the pilot to implement these resources, and faculty implementation should begin this fall. For more information on the remote work initiative, contact Brown at BrownC@crc.losrios.edu.