Why companies take on the role of educators

Key points to remember

  • The labor shortage crisis resulting from the lack of properly qualified workers is causing an overhaul of the educational landscape.

  • To keep pace with the digital transformation, tech companies like Amazon, IBM and others are stepping in to improve skills, develop and provide training opportunities for employees and non-employees.

  • Many companies have adapted their hiring and promotion practices around competency-based training.

It’s graduation day, but the degree awarded isn’t from Harvard or Georgetown, state university, or two-year community college. Instead, it’s a certificate from Machine Learning University, a flexible but rigorous top-level artificial intelligence training program and machine learning course created and taught by engineers at Amazon.

The Machine Learning University is just one of nine different digitally-focused training programs that Amazon offers to help develop and retrain employees. In an effort to keep pace with the rapidly accelerating digital transformation, tech companies like Amazon, IBM and others are stepping in to provide educational opportunities that were traditionally the domain of four-year colleges and technical and vocational schools. .

“As a nation, we are simply not producing enough STEM graduates to meet the demand not only for these specific STEM roles, but also for the jobs that are on the borderline where you need more and more. technical mastery in HR, law, and finance, for example, ”said Ardine Williams, vice president of workforce development at Amazon, at the recent Talent Forward Summit of the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation .

Ardine Williams, Vice President, Workforce Development, Amazon

The workforce shortage crisis resulting from the pandemic, coupled with the lack of properly qualified workers to fill the vacancies that existed before COVID-19, is driving this overhaul of the education landscape. Indeed, over the past two years, many companies have adapted their hiring and advancement practices around competency-based training. Some have even gone further, also offering training in new technologies to non-employees. IBM, for example, recently announced a plan to equip 30 million people around the world with new technological skills. Together with education providers, governments and other organizations in 30 countries, the company will strive for this ambitious goal by 2030.

Lydia Logan, vice president of global education and workforce development at IBM, said the idea that a worker should pursue either a college program or a technical skills program was fundamentally flawed . “It’s not a choice,” Logan said. “People don’t learn at a university or any other setting. They do both these days. And when we talk about people learning the skills they need for the jobs of today and tomorrow – the STEM jobs that we often call the new pass jobs at IBM – it’s a learning game all about. throughout life.

Logan said the pandemic has intensified the need for companies like IBM to play a bigger role in retraining and developing people, even those who don’t work for IBM.

For its part, Amazon pledged to provide cloud computing training to 29 million people globally by 2025, and last month announced a plan to strengthen existing benefits in education and job training it provides to front-line American employees. The expansion, made possible through its Career Choice program, represents an investment of $ 1.2 billion through 2025. Hundreds of thousands of employees will be eligible for full tuition and high school diplomas , GEDs and English as a Second Language (ESL) proficiency certifications.

Williams said the expansion has been fueled in part by Amazon’s belief that access to learning more skills is one of the key attributes of a “good job.” She says the ability to add skills to the experience is essential “so that people can have a career, whether it’s with Amazon, which we hope, or elsewhere.”

Higher education institutions still have an important role to play, of course, in bringing in the skills of the nation’s collective workforce. “My personal belief is that collaboration between higher education institutions and businesses large and small is what will enable us to increase the workforce we need for the jobs of today and tomorrow, ”Williams said.

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Sean Ludwig

Editorial Director, Emerging Digital Platforms

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