Cuomo offers free online skills training for unemployed New Yorkers

New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at a news conference on September 08, 2020 in New York City.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Wednesday the launch of a new online training platform which will enable unemployed and underemployed New Yorkers weathering the Covid-19 pandemic to learn new skills, earn certificates, and advance their careers at no cost. The new tool will provide access to nearly 4,000 online programs taught by leading professors and industry professionals on Coursera, with a focus on high-growth and in-demand sectors like advanced manufacturing, technology, and health care, among others.  

“This new training platform will be key in this effort by ensuring unemployed and underemployed New Yorkers are not left behind by providing access to the resources and training they need to get back on their feet,” Governor Cuomo said in a press release.

The new course offerings are provided through a partnership between the New York State Department of Labor and Coursera, an online learning platform. The partnership will save New York millions of dollars over the next few years while providing free job skills training to New Yorkers. New Yorkers can request a free account on the New York State Department of Labor website. 

The nearly 4,000 courses available through Coursera are taught by leading professors and industry educators and cover topics ranging from mechanical engineering and project management to technology and data science skills. Many of these programs provide a pathway to professional certificates and other certifications that can help New Yorkers elevate their careers or compete in a new industry. These include courses on project management, cybersecutiry, marketing in a digital world, how to manage a remote team, Google It Support Professional Certification, and an introduction to Apple iOS app development.

The state will also partner with New York-based businesses to encourage their employees to utilize this free learning opportunity.

Since the launch of the Coursera Workforce Recovery Initiative, more than 1 million workers have enrolled in over 7 million courses to gain critical skills for jobs of the future.


During the pandemic, Coursera — which ranked No. 4 on the 2020 CNBC Disruptor 50 list — has helped more than 330 government agencies across 70 countries and 30 U.S. states and cities support impacted workers with job-relevant skills training. Since the launch of the Coursera Workforce Recovery Initiative, more than 1 million workers have enrolled in over 7 million courses to gain critical skills for jobs of the future. Coursera Workforce Recovery Initiative is modeled after a highly successful initiative that the company launched in March 2020, which offered free courses to over 3,700 colleges and universities that closed their campuses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In just six weeks, that initiative launched 6,400 programs for 2,800 colleges and universities around the world, helping enroll 475,000 displaced students in 1.1 million courses.

Governor Cuomo’s announcement is one example of how governments, colleges, institutions and employers are reimagining higher education and the reskilling of the workforce during the pandemic, which has become a critical priority.

“New York has taken a new approach to workforce development and it aims to help New Yorkers acquire the skills they need for the jobs of the future,” said Leah Belsky, Coursera’s chief enterprise officer at CNBC’s virtual Disruptor 50 Summit on Wednesday, who noted the company saw a 450% increase in traffic to its site since the pandemic began.

During the Covid period, when so many people are financially strapped and see the shift to remote work, they are keen on upskilling. “We see a focus on shorter-term learning in ways that can advance their careers,” Belsky said. “There is now laser focus among consumers on how any degree can help them get a better job.”

Rachel Carlson, co-founder and CEO of Guild Education — which ranked No. 45 on the 2020 CNBC Disruptor 50 list — sees the same trend. “What’s needed by more than half of the American workforce is a pathway to getting a fulfilling middle-class career,” she said at the Disruptor 50 Summit. “More employers are recognizing this, and they are offering full-time employees and furloughed employees access to online skills training and education. Many like Walmart, Discover Financial and Chipotle are paying for this education for their workers through Guild Education. It’s a way for them to retain and recruit talent.”

The transformation in higher education is profound. “Americans are redefining the value of the traditional liberal arts degree. In the future, I believe there will be more modular learning where you can tack on technical skills,” Carlson said.

According to Belsky, “There will also be more shared resources among universities and colleges where they share faculty through online offerings– especially internationally in markets where there is not enough access to education.”

She also believes that after the pandemic the majority of students will not just go back on campus. “Instead, you will see a blended approach — a percentage of courses will be given online, others will be offline,” Belsy said. “There will be more pressure on universities to provide relevant job skills.”


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