The Business Roundtable brought together nearly 100 industry and education representatives Monday to develop a new workforce training program. The plan is to build digital skills in more than just the tech field.
Organizers are hoping to establish a set of skills that apply across industries, educational programs to teach those skills and then specific commitments from businesses to get students into jobs. Accenture’s Midwest senior managing director Pallavi Verma explains the consulting firm built a similar program in Chicago focused on apprenticeships.
“Through the Chicago Apprentice Network ,we’ve signed in 14 companies and had them commit to 275 apprentices, and we’re trying to scale that to 1,000 by 2020,” Verma says.
“They are entry level positions,” she continues, “but there is a career path for them, so that there isn’t necessarily a requirement that they need to have a four year degree to continue to progress.”
Columbus State Community College president David Harrison says most of his students are already working—but not necessarily toward their eventual career. He's hoping the partnership will support workforce training closer to the apprenticeship or work study model.
“The curriculum and the programmatic content are important but it’s just as important how it’s delivered, and the level of collaboration between the employer and the education experience,” Harrison says.
Business Roundtable officials say workforce training programs are often narrowly tailored, and they want to help local schools create work study or certificate programs that prepare students for jobs in multiple industries.
And that’s important, says American Electric Power CEO Nick Akins, because companies in many sectors of the economy are facing similar labor challenges.
“We all have digitization, automation, technology that’s changing dramatically,” he says. “So it’s not just looking today’s workforce, it’s looking at the future workforce and really mapping that to the skills that companies need.”
Monday's meeting was the first for the program, and details about what form the initiative will take and when it will begin are unclear.