Washington tells of Mason’s plans to help re-educate workers at Board of Visitors meeting

A slide from President Washington's State of the University presentation to the Board of Visitors.

George Mason University is looking at ways to provide education to experienced workers who were displaced as a result of the economic downturn associated with the coronavirus pandemic, President Gregory Washington told the Board of Visitors Thursday.

As part of the upskilling initiative to help displaced workers, Mason is aligning curriculum to allow individuals to attain the skills they would need to qualify for job openings in Northern Virginia, Washington said. The upskilling initiative is aimed at individuals with college degrees whose skills are increasingly mismatched for the changing job market. Regional unemployment peaked in April 2020 at 10.4%. There are currently 495,000 job openings in the greater Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia region.

“We have put together curriculum that matches the needs of those jobs,” said Washington. “We are looking to lower the cost of entry” for individuals who would want to update or modify their skillset.

Washington’s presentation occurred at the Board of Visitors’ December meeting held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. During the meeting, the board also approved the further progress of the Arlington Campus extension.

The board also voted to add the Staff Senate chair as a nonvoting member, complementing the existing Faculty Senate chair representation.

Washington told the Board of Visitors that Mason is planning ways to best position its current students to join the workforce despite a difficult national unemployment rate, especially for recent college graduates.

“We have to figure out how to support students, and how to position them, such that when they graduate, they can take advantage of the opportunities in the workforce,” said Washington.

The university is creating the Mason Talent exchange, which is aimed at more precisely matching early career professionals about to enter the job market with regional employers looking for entry-level college-educated talent.

In addition, Washington said that Mason is planning to help meet the growing demand for higher education in Virginia by expanding access to the university through community college partnerships, such as the ADVANCE program with Northern Virginia Community College.

In his presentation to the board, Washington highlighted Mason’s accomplishments and recent rankings. Mason is the highest ranked institution in the United States under 50 years old and the eighth most diverse institution, said Washington.

Washington also highlighted the relatively low number of coronavirus cases at Mason during the fall semester through rigorous testing and safety protocols.

“We have been able to maintain our campus being open in a limited fashion,” said Washington.  “Right now, we are planning for a spring reopening similar to the reopening in the fall.”