U.S. employers cut 20.5 million jobs in April, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report. Meanwhile, the national unemployment rate surged to 14.7% this month.

People need work, and for some, that’s going to mean going back to school for new credentials. With the pandemic as a backdrop, a webinar – hosted by the center-left think tank Third Way and sponsored by the Lumina Foundation – explored how workforce credentialing could be made quicker and more accessible to those who need it the most.

Lindsey Reichlin Cruse

Ten speakers addressed the question from across industries and sectors.

Lindsey Reichlin Cruse, study director at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, focused on the needs of student parents.

“Given half of all student parents are caring for children under the age of six, access to affordable and high quality and early learning for their children is really essential to their ability to enter and complete postsecondary education,” she said.

Cruse advocated for “intentional partnerships” between universities and the Head Start system, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services programs for early childhood education with wraparound supports for low-income parents.

Too often, the Head Start system and higher education are “black boxes” to each other, she said, when they could actually enhance each other’s work. She would like to see Head Start programs operating on more college campuses so they could offer student parents coaching and referrals for campus-specific services.

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