Investing in education, training, and development for workers

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Amazon teams up with the Aspen Institute to explore its UpSkill America initiative, which studies methods of investing in employee education and career development, while collaborating with companies to adopt these practices to improve upskilling programs.

At UpSkill America, we study the ways in which employers are investing in the education, training and development of their workers and then work with other companies to adopt those practices as they create, expand or improve their own upskilling programs. Since UpSkill America was created in 2015, we’ve seen significant growth in the upskilling programs employers have created. These programs include: pre-employment training; apprenticeships; high school completion; certifications; all the way up to college degree programs. So why are employers investing in upskilling? The reasons vary, but frequently employers tell us they are looking to equip their workers with the emerging skills they need in the workplace so both the workers and the business can succeed.

In this tight labor market, employers are increasingly understanding that if they can’t “buy” talent (hire it from the outside), they have no choice but to “build” it by developing the skills of their existing workers. Two ways we see employers doing this are: 1) Investing in the skills of their entry level and frontline workers to help them gain the skills they need to move up in their careers; and 2) Investing in developing the technical skills of workers throughout their organization.

Employers are investing in the basic skills of their entry level and frontline workers to help them gain the skills they need to move up in their careers because they know that those with limited skills are often vulnerable to losing their jobs when automation comes. Plus, they know that entry level workers with no recognized credential beyond a high school diploma are more likely to get stuck in a low wage job that cannot sustain a family. For those reasons and more, we see employers investing in things like English language programs, GEDs and high school diplomas, and basic education so workers can go on to post-secondary programs.

We also see a number of employers creating programs to develop the technical skills of workers who are not currently in technical positions. Employers are doing this because they need to fill critical technical skill shortages and, in many cases, there simply aren’t enough people with those skills in the labor force. Plus, these specialized technical training programs are a great way to provide opportunities in high-demand occupations to populations that are underrepresented in STEM-related occupations such as computer programming and data analytics. Though these are often high-touch and costly programs for companies to offer, companies know it is critical to fill these positions that can contribute more to the bottom line of the company and provide greater opportunity and stability for the workers who fill them.

If you would like to better understand why employers are investing in the education, training and development of their workers and the range of programs they are creating, please check out the UpSkilling Playbook for Employersas well as this series of toolsto help employers create, expand, or improve their upskilling programs.

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About the Author

Jaime Fall

Jaime is director of UpSkill America at the Aspen Institute.