What Comes After the ‘Great Resignation’? The ‘Great Retraining.’

A new Cengage Group report found that people who voluntarily left their jobs during the pandemic are heading into emerging fields like tech. Community colleges could play a key role in training them.
2 min read

Share this Article

  • Many people who left their jobs and found new employment between May 2021 and May 2022 said they took an online course to boost their job prospects, according to a Cengage survey.
  • Survey respondents said they looked for clear paths to growth and development in their job search, according to the report.
  • The report dubbed the surge in upskilling as the "Great Retraining" to follow the "Great Resignation," when many people voluntarily left their jobs.
  • Survey respondents overwhelmingly said they had no regrets about leaving their jobs during the Great Resignation.

People voluntarily left their jobs in massive numbers starting in early 2021 as part of a trend that's been dubbed the "Great Resignation." Many of them landed new jobs — and are now looking for training opportunities to learn more skills.

An overwhelming majority of those who left their jobs during the Great Resignation, 81%, said in a Cengage Group survey that they have no regrets. Just 6% said they're thinking about returning to their previous job, according to the Cengage report.

Cengage surveyed 1,200 people ages 25 and up who quit their jobs and found new employment between May 2021 and May 2022.

Roughly 66% of survey respondents said access to online training and upskilling opportunities paid for by their employer was an "important factor" in their decision to accept their new job, with more than half indicating that their previous employers didn't offer similar opportunities.

About 89% of respondents with new employers who offer paid training said they plan to take advantage of those opportunities, according to the report.

"The primary reasons why Resigners accepted their new jobs were because the company had 'a clear path to growth and development' (30%), followed by the company's mission and values aligning with their own (27%)," the report reads.

"In our 2021 research, having 'clear opportunities for professional development and growth' was one of the top attributes employees were looking for in their new employer. While compensation was important, it wasn't rated as highly as these other attributes."

The Pew Research Center found in early 2022 that the majority of workers who left a job in 2021 cited low pay and a lack of advancement opportunities in their decision to seek new employment.

The Great Retraining

The Cengage report notes that 67% of respondents, and 77% of respondents who work in the technology sector, indicated that they took an online course to boost their job prospects. The report dubs this upskilling trend as the "Great Retraining."

Surging interest in upskilling and training could be a boon for community colleges and their students, said Martha Parham, the senior vice president of public relations for the American Association of Community Colleges.

"People are rethinking how they live and how they work after the experience of the pandemic," Parham said.

Community colleges offer a broad range of training opportunities based on their local job markets, Parham said, and could play a unique role in training workers for new jobs.

"A lot of people don't understand the breadth of opportunities for skills training across the country that is very in sync with the local workforce pipeline," Parham said.

A slew of large businesses stepped up efforts to collaborate with community colleges in recent years amid a nationwide skills shortage in key fields like cybersecurity and information technology.

Amazon last year launched a multimillion-dollar effort to support bachelor's programs at community colleges as part of a pilot program in Washington, in addition to paying full college tuition for hourly workers starting in early 2022.

That effort came as other tech giants stepped up partnerships in higher education to train workers.

Google last year announced it would offer community colleges free access to its Google Career Certificates program, BestColleges previously reported, which includes training in data analytics, project management, IT support, and other tech fields. Microsoft in 2021 announced a campaign to recruit 250,000 people from community colleges into cybersecurity by 2025. And IBM has long collaborated with community colleges with internships and apprenticeships.

About 71% of Cengage survey respondents said they are concerned about a coming recession, which is about in line with the general public, according to the report — and they see job training as important to staying secure in their work. Roughly 76% of respondents said they would take online training or a certificate program to broaden their skills and become more marketable to avoid layoffs.

"The Great Resigners we surveyed indicated overwhelmingly (90%) that they would switch industries if their job was eliminated in a recession, quite different from our 2021 survey, in which only half of resigners planned to switch industries," the report reads.

"This might signify that Great Resigners believe other industries won't be as affected by a recession and that their skills have good transferability. If not, we may expect to see an even stronger demand for reskilling and retraining opportunities."