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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Even after the pandemic is behind us, millions of jobs — most of them in the travel and service industries — will be gone forever, and workers are figuring out their next moves.

The big picture: Pivoting from one career to a whole new one is a difficult feat, but many have pulled it off. That could be a good sign for America's resilience amid the pandemic's economic destruction.

  • "The American worker has proven to be extremely adaptable," says Jane Oates, president of WorkingNation, a nonprofit that raises awareness about the challenges facing U.S. workers, and a former Labor Department official.

There are examples of pivoting from the worker level all the way up to the Fortune 500 level, she says.

  • Former bartenders and restaurant workers have joined training programs and found new jobs at tech companies, the New York Times reports.
  • Restaurants are selling groceries as a new way to make money in the era of social distancing.
  • GM pivoted from cars to ventilators when America needed to fill a shortage.

Case in point: I spoke with Deleyse Rowe, who worked on a cruise ship's service staff until her entire industry was walloped by the pandemic in March.

  • For a couple of weeks, Rowe was hopeful that things would quickly get back to normal. "Then I started to see everything shut down, and I thought, 'OK, this is not coming back for a while,'" she says.
  • Rowe enrolled in a free Amazon Web Services training course at Per Scholas, a nonprofit that provides technology education to low-income adults. The course was funded by AWS, and after completing it, Rowe got a job working at one of the tech giant's data centers, where she's making more than she did on the cruise ship.
  • Rowe loves her new job, but the quick switch wasn't easy. "I can't lie. It's been tough," she says. Rowe says she periodically reaches back out to her former Per Scholas teachers for tips.

But, but, but: Even though there are prominent success stories, preparing millions of displaced workers for the post-pandemic economy won't be possible without massive federal investment, experts say.

  • “We need a New Deal for skills,” Amit Sevak, president of Revature, a company that hires workers, trains them to use digital tools and helps place them in jobs, told the New York Times.

The bottom line: "We're in a Cambrian explosion period of experimentation with new ways of working," says Roy Bahat, a future of work expert and head of Bloomberg Beta, a venture fund backed by Bloomberg LP. "It's showing people will try to adapt if they must."

  • "The issue is that it's unclear if it's actually working. Is it keeping businesses alive? Is it keeping workers employed? Or is it more like a stopgap than meaningful resilience that will produce lasting benefits?" says Bahat.

Go deeper

Jan 15, 2021 - Health

Women's health care jobs aren't coming back as fast as men's

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Health care jobs held by women have come back much more slowly than jobs held by men, mirroring trends in the economy overall.

Why it matters: The vast majority of health care workers infected with COVID-19 have been women, and they've borne the brunt of the industry's economic woes, too.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
22 mins ago - Energy & Environment

China vows end to building coal-fired power plants abroad

Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: Mary Altaffer - Pool/Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping told the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday that his country "will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad" and plans to boost support for clean energy in developing nations.

Why it matters: The pledge, if maintained, would mark a breakthrough in efforts to transition global power away from the most carbon-emitting fuel.

House Democrats strip Iron Dome money from government funding bill

Photographer: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

House Democrats on Tuesday stripped $1 billion for Israel's Iron Dome defense system from its short-term government funding bill after backlash from progressives, people familiar with the decision tell Axios.

Why it matters: There has never a situation where military aid for Israel was held up because of objections from members of Congress. While the funding will get a vote in its current defense bill, the clash underscores the deep divisions within the Democratic party over Israel.