SHRM Joins White House in Pledging to Train U.S. Workers

Commits to educate more than 127,000 HR professionals during the next five years

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer July 19, 2018
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The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has joined a White House national initiative to expand workforce training by committing to educate and prepare more than 127,000 HR professionals through the SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP certification programs over the next five years.

SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, signed the new Pledge to the American Worker today on behalf of SHRM and its members.

"Business succeeds when its people succeed," he said. "That means people joining the workforce must be prepared for work and have opportunities to advance their skills as work evolves and their careers progress. With HR playing the critical role of leading industry's recruiting and retention efforts, SHRM enthusiastically pledges its support for an investment in lifelong education and workforce training."

President Donald Trump is asking U.S. companies and trade associations to give students and workers more job training and skills development opportunities as automation changes the workplace. He signed an executive order today to bolster vocational training through apprenticeships, continuing education, work-based learning, on-the-job training and re-skilling opportunities. The White House said it expected the initiative to lead to 4 million new career opportunities for students and workers. In addition to SHRM, executives with FedEx, Home Depot, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Associated Builders and Contractors, the Aerospace Industries Association and the American Trucking Associations, among others, attended the event and signed the pledge. Walmart committed to 1 million new career opportunities.

"In the days and months ahead, we hope that companies and organizations will join us in this effort," Trump said.

The executive order also creates The National Council for the American Worker—composed of senior administration officials—to develop a national strategy for training and retraining workers for high-demand industries, and a workforce policy advisory board that will generate recommendations on the development and implementation of that strategy. 

Skills Crisis

The president's order aims to increase the number of skilled workers in the U.S. workforce at a time when many companies are struggling to find qualified employees. The Trump administration has supported expanding apprenticeships, increasing access to STEM education for K-12 students, and passing an updated career and technical education bill in Congress.

Labor market data shows that there is a growing gap between the number of job openings and the number of workers equipped to fill them.

"There simply aren't enough unemployed workers in the current pool of those looking for work to match the growth in demand for new workers," the White House Council of Economic Advisors concluded in a recent report.

One problem is that many need more education or skills to do the jobs that are being created, and employers have been reluctant to provide that training ever since the Great Recession.

"There should be significant increases in the investment of corporations in the area of learning and development and a requirement for every single employee to invest daily in ongoing learning and skill development," said Heide Abelli, senior vice president of corporate learning content at Skillsoft, a learning management system software firm. "It may be true that the only sustainable source of competitive advantage for companies in the future will be the ability to train, untrain and retrain the organization’s human capital better than the competition. This requires creating a culture of continuous learning and providing the kinds of incentives and support for ongoing skill growth and development that organizations in the U.S. historically have not provided." 

The Pledge to the American Worker is meant to address those issues by persuading employers to make new investments in training current and future workers, and allowing workers to learn in-demand skills and competencies.

"The assembly line, energy plant and retail store have changed dramatically in the past 25 years—and the jobs have, too," senior White House adviser Ivanka Trump wrote in The Wall Street Journal. "Nearly 1 in 5 working Americans has a job that didn't exist in 1980, many in technology, the fastest-growing segment across all industries. Such rapid change is one reason 6.6 million U.S. jobs are currently unfilled."

She added that many of today's in-demand jobs require specific skills training, not a college degree. "Yet for too long, both the public and the private sectors have failed to develop innovative and effective training programs."

The White House is hoping to change that. "Our vision is to create a workforce culture that fosters and prioritizes life-long learning," she wrote.

Skills-Based Hiring Necessary

Taylor has made skills-based hiring and workforce development a key focus of the organization.

As an organization, SHRM believes that both government and employers play a role in providing training to employees to help them become more productive and better qualified for high- and middle-skill jobs. 

In the HR industry, SHRM serves as the leading provider of resources for career development. More than 100,000 HR professionals hold its competency-based certifications, which validate proficiency in core areas such as leadership, business acumen and interpersonal skills and technical knowledge in more than 15 operational areas like talent acquisition, employee engagement and organizational development. 

SHRM also supports better alignment between education and employment. The organization offers competency-based content to keep practitioners up to date on their skills and hosts continuing-education conferences each year. In 2017, SHRM developed SHRM University, an extensive continuing education program for its own employees.

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