Hiring woes in big tech, health care, and retail are key drivers of alternative education and training pathways that have the potential to go big.
For now, most of the experimental programs in this space—including a promising apprenticeship model
featured in this week’s issue—enroll just dozens
of students. Yet several experts say big-budget skills training programs that Verizon
, and Amazon
have rolled out amid the pandemic reflect a new level of commitment that’s worth watching.
The newfound urgency isn’t about altruism, or at least not primarily, as some of the companies acknowledge. Severe labor shortages
in retail and health care
and dismal diversity numbers
in IT are helping to prod large employers to get more creative about hiring, training, and retaining
For example, IBM this week announced plans to educate 30M people globally by 2030 with a new free career-readiness program.
The news builds on IBM’s existing skills-based work, which includes its P-TECH public schools
, dropping degree requirements for more than half of the company’s U.S. job openings, and a recent pledge
to train 150,000 U.S. students and workers in cybersecurity
“Any initiative of this size raises questions about the efficacy and realism of such goals, but on-the-ground partners of IBM say they have the tools and connections to scale up dramatically,” reports Burke
, who spoke with several organizations that are among the 170 new academic and industry partners participating in the program. They include:
, a venture philanthopy firm which will use the partnership to expand its Future of Work project to 16 locations, up from six.
“We’ve got billions of dollars being pumped into this workforce system,” says Angela Jackson
, a managing partner at New Profit, who recently called
for better targeting of government subsidies for training programs. “We need to make sure the consumers are being trained on the jobs that employers actually need.”
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Several observers say Verizon is among the more progressive of large U.S. corporations when it comes to opening doors
to job seekers from lower-income backgrounds. The company announced last year that it would spend $44M on free, tech-focused career training.
Generation’s 12- to 15-week programs are free to participants, 80 percent of whom get jobs within 90 days of completing the boot camp–style training. With personalized education plans and wraparound support services, the group says its operational costs are just $3,000 per graduate.
“We’re trying to change the mind-set in hiring by large corporations,” says Sienna Daniel, chief growth and impact officer for Generation, which hopes to train 500,000 students by 2030.
The boot camp is designed to give participants skills and hands-on experience to get hired without a college degree. Classes for Generation’s Verizon project began last November, with training for roles as a junior cloud practitioner, junior web developer, IT help desk technician, or digital marketing analyst. The first cohort of 171 students graduated
The program features a path to work for Verizon as well. Yet Daniel says even with the company’s substantial investment, convincing its various divisions to hire Generation’s graduates remains a work in progress. It requires frequent nudges from champions in the huge corporation.
“They weren’t sure there would be an avenue to hire our learners,” she says, adding that even some participating business units at the company are “probably still on the fence.”
However, Daniel says Verizon is ahead of the curve with its commitment to non-traditional career paths and to hiring Black and Latino tech workers. The company also has been able to build on what it learned through its Project Athena
The handoff to Multiverse-administered apprenticeships may be the best path for Generation graduates to work at Verizon. Generation works with Multiverse and Verizon to map out the 15-month process for each apprentice, from the skills boot camp through the yearlong apprenticeship.
The initial pilot began in June with 20 software engineering apprentices who work and train at Verizon’s offices in Dallas and New York. They are Verizon employees throughout the program, the company says, receiving full benefits and compensation as well as skills training.
Each apprentice gets one-on-one coaching, which is essential to the Multiverse model, says Tim Smith
, a spokesman for the company:
“The overwhelming majority of our learning is delivered human to human, with coach-led delivery (in groups) supplemented by regular one-to-one sessions. We think of the coach role as someone not just delivering content, but analyzing performance, giving feedback, and providing personal accountability.”
The cost to Verizon for the boot camp–to–apprenticeship model is minimal, Daniel says. The program should grow to 100 apprentices next year, she predicts, then as much as triple in 2023.
“Verizon is massive. They have a lot of need,” says Daniel, adding, “I really don’t see why this couldn’t work elsewhere.”
Generation works with community colleges to offer a route for its completers to earn college credits and certificates. For example, the group is tapping support from Verizon so Generation boot-camp completers in cloud computing or IT can apply to tuition-free certificate programs at Miami Dade College
, where they get paid professional experience while earning a certificate.
Generation says it wants to create a postcompletion path for 600 of its graduates at each partner community college.
JFF is working to help Generation and Verizon make connections to community colleges, says Kathryn Jo Mannes
, JFF’s vice president of impact partnerships. The nonprofit is supporting an initial group of 10 community colleges, with five more on the way, and a goal of recruiting another 10. JFF also is working to evaluate the program, as it is with Google’s IT support certificate
The Kicker: “It’s definitely a bandwagon effect,” Mannes says of the growing corporate interest in college credit pathways for alternative skills training programs. “We don’t know how far this is going to go.”