SHRM: Worker Training Needs a Common Metric

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer June 19, 2019
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​File image of Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, president and CEO of SHRM

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, president and CEO of SHRM, told a meeting of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board that more should be done to track and measure investments in worker training.

"We need a common way to collect information on how employers measure the training they provide," Taylor told the White House- and U.S. Commerce Department-sponsored panel, which met yesterday in Charlotte, N.C. "Without this, we cannot make improvements in what areas of training need attention and in worker development overall."

The advisory board comprises leaders from the private, nonprofit and public sectors and is working on ways that government, educators and employers can train workers and reduce skills gaps. The board will make recommendations to the National Council for the American Worker—made up of Trump administration officials—charged with increasing demand-driven education, training and reskilling through apprenticeships and other work-based learning programs.

Barbara Humpton, CEO of Siemens USA, explained that business and government don't have a common way to describe training. "Business and policy makers need to know how much is spent on training, the types of workers receiving training, and the long-term value of the money and time spent in classroom and on-the-job training," she said.

The board will develop recommendations for a mechanism for collecting national data and creating a common framework for classifying training investments to quantify the impact of training, show the value to employees and reveal the true value to the bottom line.

Taylor unveiled the results of a survey conducted by SHRM, which found that employers are clear on what constitutes development training for workers but are less clear on which training should be categorized as upskilling and which as job maintenance.

The survey of 1,033 HR professionals also found that more than one-half of employers track the financial cost of worker skills training and development, and that 89 percent track employees' participation in such programs.

The survey also found:

  • 67 percent of employers provide educational assistance to some or all of their employees, and 36 percent of employees at these organizations take advantage of it.
  • 42 percent of employers work with educational partners to upskill their employees, while only 29 percent of employers work with local or federal government agencies to obtain skills-based training grants.
  • 55 percent of employers do not offer any type of apprenticeship program.
  • 55 percent of HR professionals said they had a training budget last year.

[SHRM members-only resource: Using Government and Other Resources for Employment and Training Programs]

Taylor also updated the gathering on the progress of the working group he co-chairs on modernizing recruitment practices. The group—tasked with finding ways to improve the U.S. labor force participation rate and modernize hiring—met with the Bureau of Labor Statistics to better understand the unemployed population, barriers to employment and work-based education.

Taylor said the group intends to work with the agency to identify by Zip code areas of underrepresented demographic groups and high unemployment.

Taylor's co-chair Al Kelly, chairman and CEO of Visa, added that the working group is looking at ways to update recruiting practices; better align in-demand workforce skills with educational curriculum; and explore how artificial intelligence could help match skills to jobs.

The group will make preliminary recommendations at the next board meeting in September.

Career Pathing, Data Collection Discussed

Apple CEO Tim Cook presented to the board on his working group's efforts to develop a national marketing campaign promoting the growing number of multiple career pathways to well-paying jobs. Cook's group is working with the New York City-based Ad Council on a media campaign set to launch in early 2020.

Cook and co-chair Ginni Rometty, chairman, president and CEO of IBM, also talked about their plans to help advance federal, state and local policies to fund in-demand skills training for high schools and community colleges; expand federal Pell Grant programs to include more training opportunities like apprenticeships; support the elimination of occupational licensing; and pass an overhaul of the Higher Education Act this year.   

Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP, shared findings from a survey of state and local chief information officers and agency heads with expertise in workforce and education data sharing from 33 states. The polling found that 61 percent of respondents find it extremely or somewhat difficult to share workforce and education data; 40 percent said they cannot access strategic data; and 52 percent said federal laws and regulations are the greatest barrier to data sharing.

Humpton's working group announced that it is coming up with a proposal to institutionalize the Trump administration's Pledge to America's Workers in order to expand the initiative highlighting employers' investment in worker education and training into the future. She said this could be through a government agency, private entity or public/private partnership.

SHRM was one of the first signers of the Pledge to America's Workers, 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.

For more information about SHRM's efforts on workforce readiness, visit SHRM's Workforce Readiness Resource Page. SHRM also leads the Getting Talent Back to Work initiative, which encourages businesses and organizations to commit to consider hiring people with criminal backgrounds.

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