New technology always creates new jobs. From the dawn of time, every invention might have eliminated one job, but it created a few more — people just needed the right skills. This has never been truer than it is today. Technologies are created at a breakneck pace. In 2019, nearly 80% of CEOs said they were concerned about the workplace skills gap — up from just 56% in 2011. From RPA to robots, technology is completing repetitive tasks, making some jobs obsolete. But again, it’s not eliminating workers. In fact, these new technologies are creating new jobs, which require people with the right skills — this is where upskilling initiatives are coming in to play.
Companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Salesforce have pledged money and created new programs to upskill their workforces. They are committed to keep employees working even as technology is introduced to displace current jobs. Additionally, this investment and commitment to taking workers to the next level serves as a great way to improve brand image and garner greater market support, even if not done with that purpose—A lot like other corporate social responsibility efforts such as Sustainability, which I recently covered. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the upskilling initiatives that exist and why it’s a good investment.
Amazon’s Upskilling 2025 Sets the Bar
Take a look at Amazon, for instance. The company has a widely varied workforce in terms of personal background and education levels. Some employees come to the company without even a GED. Others come with Master’s PhDs and other high-ranking degrees in highly-analytical fields. Still, the company is committed to donate $700 million in re-skilling and up-skilling to keep its entire workforce up to speed. The company says the investments will include things like tuition and curriculum redevelopment, technical programs, and e-learning certifications among other things. The goal of the program is to give all employees the skills they need to either move up at Amazon or move on to a qualified position outside of the company.
It’s clear that they are focused on getting people ready to take on the positions of tomorrow whether or not it benefits Amazon. That is the type of initiative that makes a difference to employees and is a very attractive recruitment tool.
Salesforce Pledges to Upskill Workers Everywhere
If Amazon’s upskilling initiative is sets the bar for in-house upskilling, Salesforce’s upskilling initiative also shows a whole lot of ambition. Last year, the company pledged to upskill half a million U.S. workers free of charge. Workers in any discipline could access Salesforce’s Trailhead training platform to learn necessary skills for jobs today. And it’s working. Several success stories can be found online.
Grow with Google Already Making a Positive Impact
Google created a similar upskilling initiative in 2017. Grow with Google has trained over 3 million U.S. workers on digital skills through a robust partner network comprised of schools, libraries and nonprofits. Workers are getting the necessary skills to apply for jobs in today’s marketplace. Google offers certificate programs and basic skills labs for students, military personnel, families, educators, and tech professionals.
Microsoft Makes Upskilling a Priority During COVID-19
With sky-high unemployment due to the pandemic, taking advantage of upskilling initiatives is a smart move by employees of any company — and Microsoft is here to deliver. In June, the company pledged to upskill 25 million US workers impacted by the coronavirus by the end of the year. They will combine existing and new resources from LinkedIn, GitHub and other sources to provide people with the necessary digital skills they need to either get back in the workplace or move up from their current positions.
Other Upskilling Initiatives to Note
These companies aren’t alone. PwC has pledged $3 billion to upskilling its workforce worldwide. Even the U.S. Army recently announced a new project, Quantum Leap, aimed at not just reskilling upwards of 15,000 people, but recoding those jobs so that they sound more appealing to a younger, changing workforce. When it comes to workplace trends, upskilling is definitely a growing one.
Upskilling Initiatives are Here to Stay and Make Great Marketing
On the business side, it’s clear: without staff on the cutting edge of tech development, companies will find it very difficult to innovate and compete in today’s marketplace. What’s more, it’s been shown that hiring an employee outside one’s company costs six times more than reskilling someone within the enterprise. Clearly, upskilling, from a business standpoint, makes a lot of sense.
Employees, for the most part, are interested in upskilling for the sake of staying relevant in an ever-changing economy — especially now with record breaking unemployment. Recent studies show nearly 30% of employees feel their skills will be redundant within the next two years. Nearly 50% of those in Gen-Y and Gen-Z think their skills will be irrelevant in the next four to five years. And even though we’ve seen that technology tends to create more jobs than it takes away, those fears are still incredibly relevant. Employees want to know their companies will invest in them — their future — and help them stay employed as markets change.
From a marketing perspective, I am confident that these initiatives also serve as a great way to attract the best talent and win customer sentiment. People consistently show a propensity towards working for and with companies that serve a bigger purpose than profit—upskilling in a world of rapid digital transformation is most certainly purpose-led.
The great thing about these current initiatives from Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Salesforce — just to name a few — is they’re invested in building a workforce for tomorrow regardless of where that workforce will be. It’s not just about training your own workforce, it’s about helping the employees of the smaller companies too. And, of course, it is about branding and marketing for the future. I’m guessing as we start to see more success stories emerge, more upskilling initiatives will follow and I, for one, think that’s a great thing for our economy.
Futurum Research provides industry research and analysis. These columns are for educational purposes only and should not be considered in any way investment advice.
The original version of this article was first published on Forbes.