This post is the first of a four-part response by Corporate Voices for Working Families to the recent NPR series, “The Skills Gap: Holding Back the Labor Market,” which explores unemployment in America, the ill-prepared workforce and workforce readiness training.

Despite the current state of the economy, many employers have jobs that they are trying to fill.  According to the NPR’s article Employers Pickier About Job Applicants Skills, employers want their future employees to be educated, trained and ready to work.

Glenn Cook, director of staffing, at Boeing, says,

What we really want to do is hire people with experience so they can hit the ground running and help us out immediately.

Potential workers are getting rejected because, despite their extensive experience, they do not have a college degree or a postsecondary credential. Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce reported the demand for new college degrees will fall short by 3 million postsecondary degrees by 2018.

This education skills gap is a crisis affecting individuals, families, communities, businesses and the national economy.

Learn and earn initiatives are one crucial strategy for addressing the skills gaps that are hindering workers and businesses.

Through the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Corporate Voices for Working Families has compiled a series of micro-business case studies highlighting employers who are establishing learn and earn partnerships. These employers, who include Expeditors, CVS Caremark, and Bison Gear and Engineering Corporation, are collaborating to provide working learners with the opportunity to pursue postsecondary credentials while simultaneously working and earning a living.

Corporate Voices believes that when business and industry partner with education to create opportunities for individuals to advance academically and along career pathways, business, education and students can all reach their goals.  As reported in the recently released “From an “Ill-Prepared” to a Well-Prepared Workforce: The Shared Imperatives for Employers and Community Colleges to Collaborate,” through collaboration:

  • Individuals will be supported and encouraged to complete postsecondary credentials essential to obtaining or growing into employment with family-sustaining wages.
  • Businesses will gain skilled, work-ready talent.
  • Education will be more closely matched to labor market demands, and businesses will support the college completion agenda.

Partnerships between business and education are essential to improving the lives of working families.  Corporate Voices, through its workforce readiness platform, will continue to highlight industry leaders, to participate in research design and to educate policy makers, all in an effort to help explain the challenges and opportunities around the education and skills gap facing our country today.  Corporate Voices invites employers who might have a learn and earn model to be highlighted and/or would like to join the Learn and Earn Business Leader Team to explore peer to peer learning of promising practices, to contact us.