Employers & Workforce
Overview

Employers and workforce constitute a key building block in the learn-and-work ecosystem. Workforce development is the bridge between employers and workers, an interconnected set of circumstances and solutions designed to meet employment needs—including workplace education, skills development, and the hiring demands of employers. 

Employers face numerous hiring challenges, including lack of clarity about the skills they require, underdeveloped pathways from high school to the workforce, the exodus of older workers, the need to recruit for diversity, and difficulties in finding enough qualified workers and, once hired, in retaining them. 

Rapid technological advances make it difficult for employees, employers, and educators to identify the skills that job seekers need. Job seekers also often have incomplete or inaccurate information about the skills that potential employers will find valuable.

The landscape of workforce development is decentralized, but many stakeholders play important roles:

  • Cross-sector collaboration is key to identifying policies and practices that create clear, accessible opportunities for individuals to develop the skills that employers require. 
  • Employers lead in providing viable pathways into the workforce, particularly amid uncertainty about the future of work. This leadership can include partnering with local high schools, creating internal skills development programs, identifying the skills they need and communicating these skills to local partners.
  • Employers, educators, and policymakers share responsibility for creating innovative solutions that address the skills gap.
  • Intermediaries such as state and regional workforce development boards can help clarify potential pathways into the workforce.
  • Partnerships with education institutions can provide employees with opportunities to develop the necessary skills and knowledge. However, greater transparency for postsecondary credentials is needed—particularly when integrating workforce and postsecondary data. These databases—when they are public-facing and include actionable information—can be used to improve postsecondary education and training programs, connect learners and workers to career pathways, and satisfy employers’ workplace needs.
  • Credential Engine is a nonprofit organization working as an intermediary to increase transparency in postsecondary credentials. By working to systematically catalogue all available credentials using “a common description language,” this system makes it easier for employers and individuals to compare available credentials.

Leaders in human resources are increasingly interested  in skills-based hiring, online microcredentials, and pre-hire assessments. While traditional college degrees continue to hold value, more employers are moving toward hiring based on applicants’ skills or competencies. The market for non-degree microcredentials and the rise of skills-based hiring is rapidly growing. These strategies, typically enabled by digital technology, involve employers in defining the specific skills that are necessary for the job and then seeking those skills in candidates. 

A growing number of companies have moved beyond training their own employees or providing tuition assistance programs to help workers pursue higher education. Some  employers are also developing their own curricula and offering publicly facing credential programs (e.g., certificates, badges, microcredentials, and certifications) to their employees and the general public. These employer-issued credentials are becoming a major part of the broader trend toward skills-based hiring and the creation of alternative, non-degree pathways to careers and professional advancement. The boom in employer-issued credentials is potentially transformational. Many of the new company-issued credentials reflect competency or content mastery in specialized areas in the same way that traditional educational certificates and degrees do. And, as much as these employer-issued credentials are talked about as substitutes for college degrees, they are increasingly being woven into college curricula through partnerships with postsecondary institutions, stacked into degrees, and integrated into new pathways to jobs for traditional students and adult learners.   

Alternate Terms
  • Employee development
  • Workforce education
  • Workforce development
Examples
  • IBM's New Collar Jobs project, launched in 2016, focuses on skills-based hiring. IBM determined that the U.S. was not graduating enough students from traditional degree programs, and pointed out that every company was essentially becoming a technology company—all looking for workers with the same skills. There was growing awareness of “new collar jobs”—not traditionally white-collar or blue-collar, but representing a large swath of jobs that required specific skills or a degree that could be a proxy for those skills. This helped redefine what was required for jobs in technology, health care, design, and human resources. In 2016, more than 80% of IBM roles in the U.S. required a bachelor's degree. Now it is about half. IBM is focusing on the soft skills, being explicit about  what it seeks in a candidate, and articulating that as part of the interview process. IBM has made a major investment through 2025 to continue to grow its apprenticeship program, which features more than 25 career paths. 
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation operates Talent Pipeline Management, a set of strategies and training for business intermediaries and employers based on the principles governing supply chain management. It offers a data-driven, end-to-end process for creating pipelines of talent for new hires, upskilling, and diversifying the workforce. This program ensures that the training delivered aligns with the needs of the job and leads to better retention. When jobs change and skill requirements evolve, employers can signal those changes to the education system, which can adjust its programs to better serve the learner or job seeker.
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the T3 Innovation Network operate the JEDx initiative to develop a public-private approach for collecting and using standards-based jobs and employment data. This initiative builds on the Chamber Foundation's Job Data Exchange (JDX) initiative, which promotes public-private standards for job descriptions and postings, and the T3 Innovation Network's Employment and Earnings Records Standards Project, which develops and uses public-private standards for comprehensive employment and earnings records. This initiative seeks to build a public-private data collaborative that can improve the collection and use of standards-based jobs and employment data for public and private applications.
  • The Business Roundtable’s Apprenticeship Accelerator helps companies develop or scale registered apprenticeship programs to expand the pipeline of workers without a four-year college degree and support their development and advancement. Working closely with local community colleges, participating Business Roundtable member companies are creating or enhancing apprenticeship programs focused on inclusive hiring models and skills development. The Accelerator is helping companies address skills gaps while also advancing equity and economic mobility for historically excluded groups.
  • The Thurgood Marshall College Fund partnership invests in students who attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to develop a pipeline of diverse talent for America’s largest companies. Through the partnership, participating Business Roundtable companies provide scholarships, internships and professional development opportunities to HBCU students and open pathways to employment and advancement.
  • Through the Multiple Pathways Initiative, participating Business Roundtable companies embark on a multi-year, targeted effort to reform companies’ hiring and talent management practices. The goal is to emphasize the value of skills, rather than degrees, and to improve equity, diversity and workplace culture. Companies are implementing new recruitment and assessment strategies to better recognize and evaluate the skills of all job seekers. The firms also identify promising career paths for employees who acquire new skills, and develop training programs to help employees gain such skills.
  • A cross-sector group of large employers, the Second Chance Business Coalition shares best practices and draws on expert perspectives to expand companies’ second-chance hiring and advancement practices. Business Roundtable and expert partners equip and guide member companies in expanding employment opportunities for individuals with criminal records.
  • Through the Business Roundtable’s Workforce Partnership Initiative, participating CEOs work with local colleges and universities in eight U.S. regions to fill high-demand jobs in STEM-related fields. These training programs are aligned with the needs of students, workers and businesses closest to home. More than 30 CEOs from leading U.S. companies are working with local colleges and universities in several U.S. regions to fill high-demand jobs in fields such as cybersecurity and data analytics, and in skilled trade positions such as technicians, machinists, and welders.
  • The SHRM Research Institute works to advance the HR profession by providing evidence-based insights, recommendations, and innovations at the intersection of people and work. The intended outcomes are to improve the employee experience and advance business performance in organizations. Recent research has focused on 2021 Workplace Culture Report; 2022 Workplace Learning & Development Trends; Organizational and Employee Resilience Research Report; The Great Resignation; Strengthening Workplace Culture; and 2022 Employee Benefits Survey.

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For the ecosystem to function effectively, all parts of the system must be connected and coordinated.

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