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On Tuesday, November 2nd, Axios Local correspondent Alex Golden discussed how local investments, schools and partnerships are accelerating workforce growth in Northwest Arkansas, featuring NorthWest Arkansas Community College president Evelyn Jorgenson and Excellerate Foundation CEO Jeff Webster.

Evelyn Jorgenson highlighted how community colleges can design programs to equip students for specific careers, efforts to accommodate adult learners hoping to reskill through a new degree, and what she hopes future workforce development programs will look like.

  • On preparing students for jobs relevant to the community: “We also know that community college students here...over 90% of the graduates desire to stay and will stay in Northwest Arkansas. We think that is significant because it means that the people who are accepting jobs...are more likely to stay in the area and continue in employment.”
  • On developing programs that respond to local employment shortages: “There’s a lot of employment needed in this area, and for Northwest Arkansas, that includes computer support, specialized web developers...that’s part of the reason why we are ramping up the number of programs that we offer related to those high tech needs for the area.”

Jeff Webster illustrated how to determine what jobs are most needed in the local area, how community members can support workforce development in their region, and financial resources that expand access to up-skilling programs.

  • On the need for better paying jobs in the area: “There’s a big part of our population that don’t have a lot of disposable income, could use a better paying job, but for whatever reason in life, they may not have had the same types of opportunities as other people in the area...they’ve got the intellect, the perseverance, the drive to take on a better paying job, they just need some help that maybe others of us have had through our families, et cetera.”
  • On the need for strategic plans for workforce development: “It’s pretty well known for an emerging country or nation that wants to get ahead, the key to that oftentimes is better skills for their constituents. So as a state, we want to continue to move forward.”

Axios VP of Growth Mia Vallo hosted a View from the Top segment with Walton Family Foundation Home Region Program director Robert Burns, who explained how local workforce development programs and re-skilling initiatives help people respond to the evolving job market.

  • “We have a significant need for everything from folks in the medical field, to technology, to hospitality, and there’s a need growing across the region for those types of skills among many skills that are needed. It’s ensuring that local systems support the communities that need to get up-skilled, that the institutions here can afford individuals that opportunity, and that the local system has the type of training needed to be able to respond to those areas.”

Thank you Walton Family Foundation for sponsoring this event.

Go deeper

Updated Nov 18, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on the need & support for caregivers

On Thursday, November 18th, Axios business reporter Erica Pandey discussed how the increased need for caregiving impacted labor force participation and considered how businesses can provide support for employee caregivers, featuring Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and National Women’s Law Center president & CEO Fatima Goss Graves.

Rep. Judy Chu highlighted the importance of a comprehensive caregiving economy and discussed potential solutions to the issues that are broken in the caregiving economy right now.

  • On the importance of a comprehensive caregiving economy: “The worry that you have about a loved one is not confined to just a child, it’s not just confined to an elderly parent. It is everywhere. There are so many people who are just totally concerned about what they would do if a loved one does get sick. And that’s why paid leave is the ultimate solution…”
  • On the need for support for caregivers through paid leave programs: “We are the only industrialized nation that does not have a national paid leave program. Our situation is such that only 23% of those in private industry have any kind of paid leave at all.”

Fatima Goss Graves illustrated how the pandemic impacted participation in the workforce for women and considered how businesses and governments can invest in the caregiving economy.

  • On the current state of labor force participation for women: “Today, women’s share of the workforce is back to where we were in 1988 levels. This is not a thing that’s going to be solved overnight. Part of that problem is that we had a care crisis that was largely invisible even before the pandemic.”
  • On how businesses should think about post-pandemic employee caregiving: “I think businesses who think everything is going to snap back in some post-pandemic world, and that people can pretend they no longer have children or families that they care for are making a giant mistake. What they should have hopefully learned in this period is how essential caregiving is for workers and that they can do their part.”

Axios VP of Events & Creative Strategy Kristin Burkhalter hosted a View from the Top segment with Facebook Head of US Policy Programs Avra Siegel, who emphasized why it is important for businesses to care for employees who are caring for their loved ones.

  • “That’s why we created things like COVID leave, why we work with vendors to create programs to support people who are navigating the system for older adults that they care for. That’s why we’ve increased our wellness benefits, because so often it’s the caregiver that gets lost in all of this, the caregiver needs to be cared for as well.

Thank you Facebook for sponsoring this event.

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

The next big bottleneck in the global vaccination effort

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

The world still needs more coronavirus vaccines, but an additional bottleneck has emerged in many low-income countries: They need help getting shots in arms.

Why it matters: Increasing vaccination rates across the world is both a humanitarian necessity and the best way to prevent dangerous new variants from emerging, but it increasingly requires complex problem-solving.

Updated 3 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 Omicron variant cases identified in Europe, U.K.

People wearing masks walk in London on Nov. 25. Photo: Li Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images

Health officials in the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany announced on Saturday that they've detected the first known cases of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The discoveries come as the world scrambles to respond to concerns over the new variant, discovered in South Africa earlier this week.