JFFLabs, a nonprofit that collaborates with national leaders in education, workforce development, business, technology, government, and philanthropy recently issued a report that identified six key components of being what they called, “an impact employer.” At least two of those relate to education and training.
“Most companies invest in the development of their leaders,” the report says. But “impact employers” focus on building the skills of frontline, entry- and mid-level talent.” The JFF report highlights “continuing education programs that allow workers to earn degrees or credentials for free or at a low cost” and “work-based learning programs to train and prepare workers for the next phases of their careers” and suggests that top companies should invest in entry level talent “on par” with senior-level talent.
JFF name-checks Walmart, Google and Starbucks as being notably good in this area. The coffee conveyer, they point out, “launched an initiative called the College Achievement Plan” that offered, “Starbucks employees who work at least 20 hours a week can access free online bachelor’s degree programs” at an accredited public university. And the “Google IT Professional Certificate,” JFF also noted, is a certificate program designed by the company that’s, “recognized by more than 20 Fortune 500 companies.”
Education access offered through employers isn’t new. Nor is the Starbucks program specifically anywhere near the revolution some hailed it to be. Even so, it’s now increasingly possible to get quality job training, technical skills or a decent general education through your job, often paid for or underwritten by the boss. And that’s unquestionably good.
“It’s absolutely possible to gain valuable technology skills and education that can help you keep pace in the market or advance your career, paid for by your company,” said Mikell Parsch, CEO of New Horizons Learning Centers, which is one of the world’s largest technology education providers. They’ve been doing it for 35 years and are responsible for 40% of all the Microsoft authorized training worldwide. “I would not call employer-backed education and training a trend, but it’s definitely becoming more important and more common,” she said.
Of course, businesses aren’t investing in education for their workforce out of public good or charity. They recognize that employee retention and internal advancement are money and time savers – especially in this decade-long period of economic growth and shrinking unemployment.
Nonetheless, growing investments that link jobs to education are important for a few reasons.
One reason is that it may help sever the nonsensical expectation that colleges should seamlessly integrate with work – that colleges should do what’s best for companies. Companies that want or need workers trained in a specific way or with a particular skill should do it or provide for it, as they increasingly are.
A bit further, what Starbucks has done, ponying up to get their employees four year degrees from a public school should demonstrate the workplace value those degrees already have – that colleges do a pretty good job making students ready to advance at work and career.
It’s also worth pointing out what private, for-profit businesses can afford to do for employees when it’s in their best financial interest.
Education opportunities at retail businesses like those singled out by JFF may also help soften the perception that working in retail is a stopgap, a fallback to career and continued education – the place you worked while you waited for something better, figured things out or inched your way through college. Rocked by the digital transformation, it’s good to see big retailers and major employers such as Walmart making education a core part of their recruitment and retention pitches.
It’s probably also important to note that the digital transformation has changed the nature of many retail jobs. Retail jobs are increasingly customer-centric, require more strategic thinking and logistics and are ubiquitously technology reliant. The retail workforce, like those elsewhere, requires ongoing education and training and pathways that lead from cash register to C-suite.
“Retail employers get it,” said Stephen Yadzinski, managing director, JFF. “Driven by the changing realities of work, their compact with workers is changing as they become new centers of education and training, increasingly taking on a centralized role in learning. Employees and candidates are experiencing this shift, and navigating careers decisions based in part on what employers offer.”
It’s a concerted effort. This week, for example, JFF partnered with Nepris, the company that virtually connects business and industry leaders with classrooms, to demonstrate the retail workplace and career options. “Our mission is to bridge the gap between education and industry,” said Sabari Raja, Cofounder and CEO of Nepris. “We introduce students to all careers, whether they require a GED, PHD, or something in between, and retail is an industry that really covers that spectrum well, and it’s the first step towards preparing the future workforce,” she said.
Education is important, and it sells. Selling to students as part of a career feels like a solid survival strategy for retailers starving for top talent. It feels like a good strategy for “impact employers” across the board.
- ‘No one to help me’: Special education families struggle with coronavirus school closures – USA TODAY
- Jefferson City Board of Education hold first virtual meeting – Jefferson City News Tribune
- Smethport Area School District introduces education plan, notes firm end of year date – Bradford Era
- Navigating Education at Home – Spectrum News
- Special education inconsistent in California school districts during closures – EdSource
- EDUCATION FOR WHAT? | The Crusader Newspaper Group – The Chicago Cusader
- Hernando schools await governor’s decision on technical education building – Tampa Bay Times
- Police plan education, measured enforcement of statewide stay-at-home order – Press Herald
- Secretary DeVos Announces New Federal Deadline Flexibility for Career and Technical Education Leaders, Allowing Them to Focus on Serving Students During the COVID-19 Outbreak – U.S. Department of Education