New research from Corporate Voices for Working Families documents the promise
of Learn and Earn partnerships 


In an election season dominated by widespread worry over persistent joblessness and an anemic economic recovery, a new research report documents a promising path for America’s employers and workers.

A Talent Development Solution: Exploring Business Drivers and Returns in Learn and Earn Partnerships, examines the potential of “Learn and Earn” models—an approach that connects employers and education providers to give companies the skilled workers they need to compete, while helping individual Americans earn a postsecondary degree, marketable credentials, and a brighter economic future. The report is published by Corporate Voices for Working Families, a nonpartisan business organization that advances innovative policy solutions to the challenges facing working families.

Based on extensive research, A Talent Development Solution explores the business impact of employer-education partnerships, offering examples from some of the nation’s leading corporations, including IBM, McDonald’s, and Verizon Wireless. Through employer tuition assistance, accredited corporate training, flexible scheduling and other critical supports, these partnerships enable employees to continue their education while working to support themselves or a family. The report profiles 22 best-practice companies ranging in size, sector, location and type of education partner—most often, a single community college or a regional consortium of education providers who best understand their region’s labor market and can customize academic curriculum to meet emerging workforce needs.

It also documents how these programs are earning positive returns on investment for the companies supporting them. Beyond the primary impact—building a better-skilled talent pool—employers report these education partnerships yield improved employee retention, higher productivity, a more diverse workforce, and an enhanced reputation in the communities they serve.

“The primary lesson from our research is that Learn and Earn partnerships work,” said John Wilcox, Executive Director of Corporate Voices.  “They help American employers address a national skills gap that hampers business productivity and hurts our ability to compete. And these programs work for workers—many of them lower-skilled young adults whose life prospects will be sharply limited without a postsecondary degree or credential.”  Indeed, well-documented changes in the global economy are fueling demand for a more highly educated workforce.  An estimated two-thirds of job openings in the next decade will require some level of postsecondary education.  At our current pace of college completion, the nation will fall short of that mark by at least 3 million degrees.

A Talent Development Solution offers practical, concrete action steps for business leaders committed to ensuring their employees have the skills their jobs demand, while supporting the higher-education and career aspirations of the workers on whom their own success surely depends. In fact, U.S. companies already spend enormous resources—an estimated $485 billion annually—on formal and informal education and training. Employers have a vested interest in supporting solutions to their own talent needs and in building a workforce that is second to none in the 21st-century global economy.  In light of their successful record, Learn and Earn programs should be widely embraced and eagerly adopted by American employers, argues Corporate Voices.

The full report, including detailed case studies on each of the partnerships documented, is available here. An executive summary is available as well.

Corporate Voices’ Learn and Earn work is generously supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Follow Corporate Voices on Facebook and Twitter – @corporatevoices and the report’s hashtag #TalentDevelopmentSolution!

As communities across the country pursue plans to spend $500 million in new federal grants to build a 21st-century workforce, Corporate Voices for Working Families is being tapped for its expertise and thought leadership in the area of business-education partnerships.

At the invitation of Missouri officials, Corporate Voices’ Peggy Walton keynoted a conference this week of college executives and workforce leaders involved in one such business-education partnership.  The statewide effort, known as MoHealthWINs, is a consortium of community colleges that won $20 million in new funding to retrain residents for good jobs in health care.  The grant is part of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training initiative, a federal workforce program for Americans whose jobs have been adversely impacted by global trade.

Corporate Voices’ original research informs publications and tools that are available to all communities seeking innovative solutions to pressing workforce needs. We also offer services to help build deeper strategic engagement and other technical assistance. Our latest report highlights the important ways business leaders and postsecondary educators can collaborate to serve their mutual goals.  Business and Community College Partnerships: A Blueprint offers practical advice, best-practice models, and concrete action steps for business and college leaders who hope to start, sustain, or expand successful relationships. It guides the partnership-building process from two distinct points of view—for employers, and for educators—and details how close collaboration serves the bottom-line interests of both.


  • For businesses, community college partnerships can offer the single best way to build a strong “talent pipeline” of local employees with the training and skills employers need today and in the near future. Such partnerships can also help businesses retain the best workers, improve employee diversity; and enhance their reputation in the communities they serve.


  • For community colleges, collaboration with area employers supports their core mission of preparing students with the skills and credentials they’ll need to compete for good jobs in growing industries. These partnerships can also help schools meet a related and urgent national imperative: Boosting anemic completion rates.

The new Blueprint was launched at two of the premier events in the community college field in recent weeks: The League for Innovation in the Community College’s Innovations 2012 conference last week, and the American Association of Community Colleges’ Workforce Development Institute. Gerardo de los Santos, president/CEO of the League for Innovation, endorsed the Blueprint, saying, “Innovative partnerships between employers and community colleges are essential building blocks in preparing an educated and skilled workforce. This blueprint presents an outstanding pathway for this joint work.”

The Blueprint is available for download on the Corporate Voices website.

Recently, Corporate Voices for Working Families announced its latest publication documenting the important ways in which business leaders and postsecondary educators can collaborate to serve their mutual goals. Business and Community College Partnerships: A Blueprint, offers practical advice, best-practice models, and concrete action steps for business and college leaders who hope to start, sustain, or expand successful community partnerships.

The new blueprint was the topic of lively discussion last month in Miami when the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) hosted its annual Workforce Development Institute. The event included some 450 workplace experts, employers, policy leaders and government officials from across the nation. Peg Walton, Corporate Voices’ Senior Director of Workforce Readiness, joined them to lead a session on business-community college partnerships, and shared the perspective of Corporate Voices’ partner companies on this important work. The new partnership tool may be found here. For more information on it, or on Corporate Voices’ role at the AACC’s Workforce Development Institute, please contact Peg Walton.