As businesses shuttered or moved to fully remote operations during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, schools migrated to online learning and companies braced for the worst. A resounding gasp was heard among the parents that make up one-third of the country’s workforce. Suddenly, they had to figure out how to make a living and supplement childcare. A staggering 14 million parents with school-aged children were unemployed in January 2021, a statistic that may give clues as to the current tight labor market as families re-evaluate lifestyles and income streams.  

Now, as more people become vaccinated against COVID-19 and many school and childcare operations reopen, some parents are making their way back into the workforce. Many are faced with a dramatically reshuffled economy and as a consequence, many find themselves on the wrong side of the skills gap.

The Opportunity

This challenge creates an opportunity for learning and development (L&D), which has the chance to focus on upskilling and reskilling non-traditional talent, equipping them with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the new economy.

Organizations that actively promote and provide career development opportunities for working parents will be better able to fill open positions with candidates who are willing and able to perform key job responsibilities and tasks. For companies facing an unprecedented staffing crunch with a colossal number of available jobs but no talent to fill them, it’s time to invest in upskilling and reskilling opportunities for working parents.

As more and more stay-at-home parents take online courses to enhance their skills, training organizations can meet them halfway by offering or supplying access to training programs on in-demand skills. This allows mothers and other working parents access training while balancing work and life at home as everyone navigates their way out of the pandemic.

Reskilling and upskilling are vital to help returning parents catch up on the skills needed for current jobs. Organizations, and L&D specifically, must work alongside job candidates with non-traditional experience who are the perfect fit for the role, but may need to learn a new skill for the position. Investing in the necessary training and development tools will help attract new talent, set them up for success and retain them after being hired.

The reality is that many people are looking for jobs, even more positions need to be filled and many talented candidates are ready to learn the skills necessary to fill these gaps. Here are a few ways L&D can help set parents returning to the workforce, and the organizations that employ them, up for success.

Encourage Participation in Online Learning

Many returning parents are participating in online courses for upskilling and reskilling purposes to close the skills gap. Parents are often very practical about what it takes to advance in their career, and they are positioned to be particularly receptive to guidance. Encourage working parents to take advantage of your organization’s eLearning courses and other available course offerings relevant to their role.

Start With a Bootcamp

It is proven that bootcamp-like training programs can enable a career pathway for people who show strong commitment but lack initial technical skills. When teaching bootcamp-like programs, training professionals should cover the basics and focus on the “why” and “how” of the skills they’re teaching rather than solely teaching the facts. People are more inclined to do their best when they understand why they are there and the purpose of their job rather than simply focusing on “what” they are expected to do in the position.

Create A Culture of Support and Growth

Employees value a company culture of support and growth, so it is beneficial to promote a healthy work environment that begins during the hiring process, through onboarding and that continues throughout the employee life cycle. One of the most important aspects of investing in training and development is to ensure valuable talent have the tools needed to enhance their skills upon their return to the workforce. Companies can hire candidates who might not have the right skillset but, with internal training and real-world projects, they can align quickly with company tasks.

Determine Transferable Velocity

It may be helpful to incorporate the concept of “transferable velocity” throughout the training process to determine the learner’s potential career trajectory to ensure alignment. Some parents returning to the workforce have been out of the office for almost two years, so it’s important for them — and the organization — to focus on where they are going next versus where they have been.

Employees and employers alike are feeling the impact of the current labor shortage and skills gap, but raw talent and drive is out there. With 10.9 million jobs currently available in the country, job seekers have an opportunity to engage with and be selective on their path forward. Ultimately, to get everyone back to work at scale, it is going to require adaption and evolution by building new skills, with L&D leading the way.