Photo: Colorado State University Archives, Libraries & Special Collections

COVID-19 continues to cause unimaginable damage to the lives and well-being of U.S. residents and our economy.

As a nation, we are starting a path to recovery, a process the Congressional Budget Office has projected could take years. Our world is more chaotic since 2020 began, and entire industries are battling to gain footing in the new landscape.

In past times of economic upheaval, higher education has rallied – playing a critical role in helping individuals, companies, and government officials find their way to rethinking, retooling, and rebuilding. The global environment is different in this crisis, but higher education retains its crucial role.

In the United States, we have been at the intersection of automated intelligence and robotics for years. We have watched other countries throughout Asia and in Europe aggressively move forward in deploying these technologies.

While our nation has developed its share of technological innovations, it has done so while working to keep Americans employed, even if that meant doing work that could otherwise be automated. Therefore, as the marketplace has grown increasingly global since our last recession, coming out of this crisis will be more challenging up against those technologically equipped competitors.

In the quickening race for economic stability worldwide, it is important that we get unemployed Americans back to work. We now have millions of unemployed citizens; yet, we also still have unfilled jobs. Creating a match between them through reskilling and upskilling will be paramount to solving our structural unemployment challenges and ensuring a stronger future for our industries.

As our U.S. companies work to compete at levels needed for their economic recovery and sustainability, higher education can again play a significant role both on-ground and online. The latter is key during the pandemic. Along with a new mindset for transformation, we must use online education and virtual workplace tools to usher in a new reality of learning for job success. In this way, innovations in the delivery of education will help drive economic recovery.

From virtual science labs to computer programming and project management, online work and learning have united in ways that allow us to provide high-quality and affordable education leading to workplace success. Collaborative partnerships with industry leaders who understand the broad reach, affordability, and equity facilitated by technology-powered education prompt new thinking about what is possible among all stakeholders. Additionally, curricular changes that incorporate information needed for industry certification exams within certificate and degree programs, and specially created short programs, can help fill open jobs that still await qualified applicants, even with our current high rates of unemployment.

Colorado is uniquely poised to continue to lead this charge. As a state, we have time and again shown a willingness to reinvent and reimagine by putting in the deep, intentional thought and hard work to contribute to a changing landscape. We can succeed with qualified experts in Colorado higher education; these experts are deeply passionate about the success of learners who can do more, think broader, and lead into the future.

Our values and the learning offered through CSU campuses will fill jobs now and into the future. That’s central to the abilities of our industries, state, and nation to compete against counterparts around the world.

Becky Takeda-Tinker, Ph.D., is president and chief executive officer of CSU Global. She is transitioning to a new role as chief educational innovation officer for the CSU System.