Nearly everywhere you go, there are Help Wanted signs. Even amid a glut of jobs—and despite a relatively high unemployment rate—the federal government reported this week
nearly 4 million Americans still
quit their job in April, the most on record.
“Determined to lure new employees and retain existing ones in a suddenly hot job market, employers are turning to new incentives that go beyond traditional monetary rewards,” the New York Times reported this week
- Waste Management will pay for its 36,000 U.S. workers to earn bachelor’s and associate degrees as well as certificates in some 170 programs, including data analytics and business management, in a partnership with Guild Education, whose technology allows employers to provide upskilling and education to employees.
- In January, Waste Management will extend benefits to spouses and children of workers.
- JBS USA, the nation’s largest meatpacker, started paying for college degrees in March for its 66,000 employees, as well as one child per worker, the New York Times reported.
Why It Matters: Traditionally, employers offered partial reimbursement to workers who wanted to take college classes. Not only were those courses usually related to their job, but employees had to pay tuition upfront and wait until they completed a course or degree to get the money from their employer.
- Guild, which recently announced it raised another $150 million—bringing its valuation to $3.75 billion—operates a learning platform that allows employers to be much more intentional about upskilling and educating their workforce.
- Guild’s technology and coaches assist workers at companies such as Chipotle and Walmart in discovering what skills they need and then guides them to educational opportunities available through partnerships that Guild has forged with universities and other learning providers.
By the numbers: The educational incentives are partly designed to reduce turnover. “Each time an hourly employee leaves Waste Management, it costs a minimum of $12,000 to search for and hire a replacement.”
- Among drivers, “50 percent of safety incidents involve those with three years or less on the job.”
The big picture: When the pandemic hit, many in higher education thought that Guild and similar organizations, including Bright Horizons’ EdAssist Solutions and Arizona State’s InStride, which operate in the space between employers, employees, and colleges would shrink as unemployment rose and companies no longer needed to offer education benefits. But the opposite happened.
“The practical reality is that the knowledge economy demands new skills even in a labor market in the middle of a pandemic,” Paul Freedman, president of Guild’s learning marketplace, told me.
Yes, but: Colleges shouldn’t expect that the likes of Guild will solve their enrollment problems by partnering them up with employers who have a stable of students.
- Guild works with educational providers, such as Southern New Hampshire University, Brandman University, the University of Arizona, and Paul Quinn College, among others that have scale to either serve employees in different industries or multiple locations. Freedman said.
- “As we continue to grow into different industries, in health care, for example, or different geographies, we’ll need to fill gaps with programs that are good for working learners, high quality, and low cost,” Freedman told me.
- There’s still a chance for colleges to partner with Guild, but they’ll be “targeted additions” he said, or an alliance or consortium of several institutions that could bring a diversity of programs and geography.
Bottom line: Ever since Arizona State University announced a partnership with Starbucks in 2014 to educate its employees, colleges have been looking for that one big employer partner—that Hail Mary pass that could provide a winning strategy to attract adult students.
- “What universities should be considering are bite-size partnerships by starting with their local and regional employers,” Freedman said.
🍟 Hold the fries: The lure in this job market is not always education. Applebee’s announced last month vouchers for a free appetizer to anyone who scheduled an interview. They were aiming for 10,000 applicants. They got 40,000.