Corporate-sponsored training initiatives have been prominent in the media in recent years. The trend toward such programs represents both the need for skilled, competent workers and a perception that government-sponsored education doesn’t necessarily adequately prepare the workforce for the needs of the workplace.
Walmart Makes a Major Investment
Recently, Walmart announced it would be putting over $4 million toward support for the Colorado Workforce Development Council (CWDC). According to a Walmart press release, “the grant will allow the CWDC to partner with local workforce development boards across Colorado to launch 10 new retail sector partnerships.”
Through these various public-private partnerships, representatives of workforce boards, economic development, and education will work with retail employers in their communities to create programs to “upskill” and train employees in support of career development.
“The funding comes at an important time,” says Walmart, citing UpSkill America, “when there are an estimated five million unfilled jobs in the U.S., but 24 million frontline workers who might be able to fill these jobs if given the opportunity to develop advanced training.”
Closing the Skills Gap
Walmart’s observation reflects a phenomenon known as the skills gap in the American labor market. Unemployment is at historic lows, and there are millions of vacancies in sectors across the economy.
At the same time, there are millions of potential employees who may be applying to these vacant positions but don’t have the skills the employers feel they need to meet the requirements of the position.
One expert says that “the U.S. economy is apparently full of contradictions. The unemployment rate is at a 17-year low at 4.1 percent, which, by traditional measures, would mean that the economy is operating at full capacity. Yet, there are well-placed observers, such as Robert Kaplan, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, that worry that economic growth is being impeded by a work force that lacks sufficient skills to allow business to grow.”
A Growing Role for Big Business
Walmart’s recent $4 million pledge to the CWDC is just one example of big business entering into partnerships with localities or educational institutions to help potential employees develop essential job skills.
It would not be surprising to see the trend continue as long as companies continue to see a skills gap and feel traditional sources of education and training are not doing enough to address that gap.