The coronavirus forced many workers to change careers or learn new skills, often with the help of local continuing education programs.
Many colleges are seeing this shift in attitude reflected in their enrollment numbers. Some have noticed a particular uptick in service-oriented educational programs such as healthcare. Because these areas were hit so hard by the pandemic, one might expect their popularity to fall in response. Instead, people are flocking to enroll in these programs more than ever.
“Any time there’s a life-changing situation, people tend to re-evaluate their goals,” says Marguerite Lane, assistant vice president of enrollment management for Molloy College. “We saw that in the 2008 recession, and to a greater extent now with the pandemic. People are now taking the time to pursue their passions. People want to make a difference, instead of just having a job.”
Such is the case with Brahashitha Gupta, director of the A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility Indian / Asian Unit in Uniondale. She used quarantine as an opportunity for reflection, and in that reflection, found purpose.
“[Covid] gave me a lot of time to think and reassess,” she says. “At the end of the day, you need to make sure you are fulfilling something that gives you happiness.”
For Gupta, happiness involves a life of service.
“Senior citizens are such a vulnerable population,” she says. “They are left out. I wanted to do something more for them. That’s why I pursued this Community Health Worker program [at Nassau Community College].”
Community health workers serve as a liaison/link/intermediary between health/social services and the community.
Even though some consider a remote learning format to be an obstacle, Gupta explains that it can actually be much more compatible with their already busy adult lives.
“You have more time, save money on gas, there’s less hustle-bustle energy where you’re always on the go,” she says of online schooling. “If the remote learning option wasn’t available, I wouldn’t have even chosen to go back and study. It gave me more time with my family, and of course the cooking and cleaning. At the end of the day, I had more time on my hands.”
Covid-19 brought terrible losses. However, it also brought us this novel opportunity to reevaluate ourselves and our situations. In the months of quietude in 2020, people were forced to reckon with their goals and desires. For many, this started a road of self-improvement, the destination of which was often education.
As Lane said, “Education is never just about doing better in your career or making more money. Education is always about learning and growing as a person. And I think that when people self-reflect and want to do something for themselves, they take the opportunity in education.”