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For Latinas Hit by Pandemic Job Loss, New Opportunities Are Emerging

New skills open pathways for women who were among first layoffs last year

female pharmacy tech reaches for a bottle of medicine

FatCamera / Getty Images

En español | The economic devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a disproportionate toll on Latinas, who had nearly doubled their contributions to the workforce over the past two decades. This progress was halted by the pandemic, but the anticipated reopening of the economy could make this a good time to get ready for that new career or job.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, Latinas accounted for 20.2 percent of the more than 20 million people listed as unemployed in April 2020. This is largely because Hispanic women tend to work in the industries hardest hit by COVID-19 lockdowns: hospitality and leisure (hotels, restaurants, entertainment and tourism), the service sector (cleaning services, food, health care and security), commerce and education, among others. Despite a gradual, mild recovery over the ensuing months, Latinas still made up 9.2 percent of the unemployed in January.

The distribution and supply of COVID-19 vaccines will be essential to restarting the economy and recovering lost jobs, according to Leo Feler, senior economist at the Anderson School of Management at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"The coming months are projected to be very difficult until we vaccinate a large number of people. After that, we will grow quickly ... due to pent-up demand,” Feler says.

A changing job outlook

"The sector where we'll see the fastest growth is leisure and hospitality,” Feler says. “Number two is education, because with students now doing school via Zoom, there will be much more growth in that area when they can go back [to the classroom]. And number three is commerce, which will also recover much faster than the rest of the economy."

Analysts agree that the pandemic will alter the job outlook in more permanent ways. A report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says telework and other factors will accelerate the adoption of work-related technology and automation.

This means that additional training may be needed to land jobs in certain fields or, in some cases, to change to a new field or occupation. This could be a challenge for some Latinas 50 or older. But by preparing for and adapting to what the market needs, they can be ready for new opportunities.

"Well, it might be a good time to try some upskilling and reskilling,” suggests Susan Weinstock, AARP's vice president for financial resilience programming. “Community colleges are a great resource for that sort of thing. You can take a course or even take a number of courses and get a certificate. It will demonstrate to an employer that you're always interested in learning more, that you're a lifelong learner, that you're taking on new skills and you're interested in continuing to improve yourself and make you relevant to the job market that we're going to have post-COVID.”


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Positioning yourself to land a job

These certificates, or microcredentials — which you can obtain online through free or inexpensive courses on sites such as MindEdge, Coursera and Udemy — will help to enhance your skills and professional profile, Weinstock says.

"They give you a certificate to demonstrate that you have mastered that particular skill. Then you can put that on your LinkedIn profile, your résumé [or] a job application to demonstrate that you have that skill set that an employer is going to be looking for,” she adds.

Being bilingual can also be a plus in a competitive job market.

Landing a job after age 50 can be a challenge. But with age comes experience, which can complement a valuable skill set that potential employers will appreciate.

"Age discrimination is a perennial problem. It's certainly something that AARP is fighting against all the time. We're working to educate employers about the value of older workers and all the things that they bring to the workplace,” Weinstock says. “One is to play up those soft skills that you have as an older worker to demonstrate that you are a problem solver, that you're calm under pressure, that you are a good listener, that you're empathetic. Those are really important skills. Pre-pandemic we would get calls from employers saying, ‘We're looking for older workers because we know they have these soft skills.'"

In addition to fighting age discrimination, AARP also helps people who meet certain requirements reenter the workforce.

"For over 30 years, AARP Foundation has run the Senior Community Service Employment Program, a community-service and work-based job training program for low-income adults age 55 and older,” says Lisa Marsh Ryerson, president of AARP Foundation, the charitable affiliate of AARP. “When you enroll in an SCSEP program, you're immediately partnered with another community organization to learn on-the-job skills training. The program is powering other nonprofits and communities. It's all about providing economic opportunity."

What are microcredentials?

Microcredentials are certificates issued by universities or other education providers upon completion of professional training courses — without the need for four years of schooling to get a college degree. These courses are a good option for those looking to expand their knowledge in order to adapt to demands for new skills in the job market. Most courses are based on learning skills that reflect what companies need from their employees.

Companies that offer microcredentials include:

Resources for job hunting

The AARP website has a section with advice on how to put yourself in the best position to land a job; tips for fighting age discrimination; help with reviewing, preparing or modifying your résumé; and even a list of job openings, with icons designating employers committed to hiring people 50 or older.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) provides funding for part-time jobs and training in community service to help workers 50 and older transition to private-sector employment. The Department of Labor also provides lists of job resources in each state.

The importance of mentorship and networking

"Most women and men who succeed have had mentors along the way. They have had advisers, consultants, coaches. Nobody does anything alone, because nobody knows everything,” says Mariela Dabbah, a leadership and professional development coach for Hispanic women.

There are many training, leadership and mentoring programs, such as those offered by Dabbah through her consulting firm Red Shoe Movement, which aims to provide training and a mutual support network with other women seeking to take their careers to the next level.

If you're unemployed, networking is key to helping you land a job.

"Most people find their jobs through networking,” says Weinstock. “Continue to always build that network, so there's a set of people that you can reach out to say, ‘I'm unemployed, can you give me some advice? You're in a field that I want to be in, you work for a company that I want to get to know.’ And you then have to chart out different things that you can do to get to know an industry or an employer. So when we come out of this pandemic and companies are starting to hire again, they're going to remember, ‘Oh, yeah, that's that woman who contacted me. She was looking for a job. She seemed so enthusiastic. Let's call her and see if she might be interested in coming in for an interview.’ Use that network, find people who know people and make sure that you're out there."

Industries with projected growth potential

These are times of change, where entire industries have been hit hard by the pandemic. Disruptions in supply chains and in our way of getting work done have caused fluctuations in growth projections in multiple sectors. But employment analysts and the BLS see potential job growth in these fields:

  • Laboratory technicians
  • Pharmacy technicians
  • Health care and home care workers
  • Health care managers
  • Software programmers and software quality control analysts and testers (a more highly paid field)
  • Nurses
  • General managers and operations managers

Also, the Walgreens and CVS pharmacy chains announced in December that they plan to hire 35,000 people to join their vaccination support teams at stores throughout the country. Both companies still have numerous openings listed on their job sites.

Although job hunting after 50 can seem daunting — especially during a pandemic — short-, medium- and long-term strategies can help you highlight and enhance your skills while you network with people in your target industry.

Verónica Villafañe is a multimedia journalist whose work has garnered multiple awards, including an Emmy. She has more than two decades of experience for television, print and online media outlets including Univision, Telemundo, CNN en Español, Fox11 in Los Angeles, the San Jose Mercury News and Forbes magazine. She is the founder and editor of MediaMoves.com, which covers Latinos in the U.S. media. She is a former national president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

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