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In an effort to fill the growing employment gap on Oʻahu, the University of Hawaiʻi Community Colleges will be offering free job skills courses this fall. The initiative, Oʻahu Back to Work, is a partnership of the City and County of Honolulu and the University of Hawaiʻi.

“I would like every struggling Oʻahu resident to check out this great opportunity, really think about the possibilities, and enroll if it seems right for you,” said Mayor Kirk Caldwell. “As we attack the coronavirus with public health measures, we must also attack COVID’s economic toll with our talents and resolve. When one person builds their skills during this crisis, we all benefit. I thank everyone at the community colleges and all the future enrollees for contributing to rebuilding our island home.”

Oʻahu Back to Work is a short-term employment training program that runs from October 5, 2020–December 18, 2020. Instructors at seven University of Hawaiʻi Community College campuses and the Manoa Outreach College will be providing more than 70 courses to Oʻahu participants. The courses will be provided virtually, with a few exceptions for select classes meeting Honolulu. The courses fall under these career fields: Business, Health, Industrial Engineering, Technology, Natural Resources, Public and Human Services, and Trades.

man working on car

“Our goal is to provide 2,000 Oʻahu participants with short term training for jobs that are currently available or will be available in the near future,” said David Lassner, University of Hawaiʻi president. “The courses offered will focus on the skills that employers in each of these sectors indicated are most needed. This training should give participants the tools they need to succeed in our changing and challenging economy.”

The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent emergency orders have dramatically resulted in negative impacts on the State’s economy and displaced many workers. In August 2020, the City and County of Honolulu’s non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 11.8% compared with 3.4% the prior August; July 2020 counts reflected nearly 48,000 unemployed civilians in Honolulu and likely undercounted those who would be considered “marginally attached” to the labor market or who are not eligible for unemployment—those who are self-employed—and do not appear in the unemployment counts.

Healthcare Association of Hawaiʻi President and CEO Hilton Raethel said, “We appreciate the efforts by the University of Hawaiʻi System and the Mayor to get this initiative going. The type of training that it will provide helps to build a pipeline of high-quality staffing for our healthcare organizations; and, it could not have come at a better time when people need the work.”

Eligible participants must be Oʻahu adults whose employment was disrupted by COVID-19 impacts such as reduced hours, furloughs, or job loss.

To learn more, view available courses, and sign up visit

—By Kelli Abe Trifonovitch

Oʻahu Back to Work news conference

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