Domestic policy was front and center during the first State of the Union Address of President Obama’s second term. The captitolPresident spent most of his speech calling for tax and entitlement reform, spending on education and energy, gun control and immigration reform. One item of particular importance to Corporate Voices and its partner companies was the President’s call for linking education with the demands of an evolving skills-based workforce.

He highlighted the need for America to redesign its high schools to improve the link between education and the skills employers are looking for. After noting that German students graduate from high  school with the equivalent of a technical degree from a U.S. community college, the President praised the work CorporatIBMe Voices’ partner company IBM is doing through its Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH). P-TECH is a grade 9 through 14 school that produces students with both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in technology.  The curriculum was developed in close collaboration with the New York public schools, the City University of New York and IBM, to provide students with the skills required for entry-level positions at IBM.

Calling on others to follow suit, President Obama promised the Department of Education will create incentives for schools that form new partnerships with colleges or employers, or develop science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) classes geared toward high-tech jobs. Corporate Voices is already highlighting many of these partnerships and success stories through its Learn and Earn initiative and its work with Year Up in the New Options Project.

The 113th Congress will soon begin to sort through issues such as reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Corporate Voices is well positioned to offer the business case on why partnerships such as P-TECH succeed and are necessary for helping to ensure our nation’s young adults are prepared with the skills needed in the 21st-century workforce. In collaboration with Year Up, Corporate Voices has already distributed a list of its policy priorities for the 113th Congress.

If you are a Corporate Voices member company and want to lend your voice to shaping education and workforce policy by joining the Corporate Voices Public Policy Task Force, please contact Nathan Constable (nconstable@corporatevoices.org). We hope to hold the first policy call in March following the 2013 Annual Partners Meeting.

IBM, one of our corporate partners, is featured in a businessweek.com article that spotlights corporate social responsibility. George Pohle, IBM’s vice president and global leader for business strategy consulting, talks about a recent IBM study that “shows a hefty percentage of top officers don’t quite connect with customer concerns.”

The article, in a question-and-answer format by William J. Holstein, opens with the following:

Top managements of companies around the world are confronting a growing chorus of demands to articulate their corporate social responsibility strategies, yet 76 % of top executives polled by IBM acknowledge they don’t truly understand their customers’ concerns.

Pohle provides interesting insights about corporate social responsibility issues — and links CSR clearly with corporate business strategies. Here’s a sample:

Q: For years, corporate social responsibility (CSR) was an add-on to businesses and was basically a kind of marketing. But now it seems customers want companies to embed social responsibility into their strategies, right?

A: That’s right. In the past, when many of us were going to business school, the focus was on shareholder value. Now with the influence  these other stakeholders have, it is really about a broader definition of “who are the folks you’re trying to please while running your business?” It’s about shareholders and other stakeholders, as opposed to focusing only on shareholder value.

Important issue. Interesting perspective.

by Rob Jewell

Are companies doing enough — or anything at all — to retain the baby boomers who are beginning to move en masse toward retirement?

That’s the subject of an article in The New York Times, “A Longer Goodbye: Shorter Hours, Lighter Duties and Other Perks Entice Older Workers to Stay on the Job.”

The answer to the question: yes and no.

Three Corporate Voices partner companies, CVS, IBM and Hewlett-Packard, are featured in the article for their programs and activities designed to retain — and continue to benefit from the skills and expertise of — older workers through flexible work strategies and other arrangements.

Yet despite these positive examples, the article mentions that “programs to hold onto older workers are far from ubiquitous.” The article points to a recent study conducted by Ernst & Young:

“The accounting firm Ernst & Young recently asked 150 large companies how they were handling the graying workforce. The norm was benign neglect.”

Those comments mirror the results of a survey conducted in October 2006 by Corporate Voices for Working Families, WorldatWork and Buck Consultants. The primary objective of this survey was to assess the overall degree to which respondents considered the pending retirement of baby boomer employees, and reduced employee available in succeeding generations, to be a significant issue.

Here are some highlights from the study, The Real Talent Debate: Will Aging Boomers Deplete the Workforce?

  • Only 42 percent of employers believe that the aging workforce issue is significant, while 29 percent believe the issue has little or no significance.
  • More than 80 percent of respondents, regardless of industry, have not surveyed their mature workers to determine future work preferences or intentions.
  • The greatest potential risk identified with the exodus of mature workers is the corresponding departure of senior leadership, followed by middle management and technical talent and knowledge workers.

This is a significant issue relating to workforce readiness and working families.

Have an example of how your company is managing this issue effectively and creatively? We would welcome knowing about it and sharing the information with others.

by Rob Jewell