Big businesses are helping workers reach their educational goals

Employees get valuable credentials; Employers get the skilled workforce they need

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Wooden male figure climbing ladder steps

It’s no secret that education equates to more gainful employment. Statistically, someone with a bachelor’s or a masters degree is more likely to be employed than someone who is a high school dropout or who only has a high school diploma. Of those who are employed, those who have a college degree generally earn a higher wage.

For the aspirational, full-time employment can be an impediment to higher education. The twin challenges of time and expense often combine to stifle personal and professional growth. Fortunately, however, many large companies now see the benefit of investing in their workers’ educational goals, providing them with the resources for advancement.

Recently, the temporary staffing agency ManpowerGroup began offering a General Education Diploma (GED) program to more than 30,000 workers at no personal cost. The GED is the equivalent of a high school diploma. ManpowerGroup’s program offers online prep courses, unlimited practice tests and personal support that will enable employees to earn their diploma within weeks.

“Today there are more jobs than skilled workers across the country and employers are hiring at levels not seen in decades, yet over 70 percent of jobs require a high school diploma or higher,” according to Nimo Shah, Manpower MyPath Program Lead. She tells WorkingNation the GED program “enables people to access more jobs, move up and earn more, while providing the skilled workforce employers are looking for.”

“We’re in a time of unprecedented opportunity for people in the world of work,” Shah says. “We have talented men and women with untapped capabilities that can work today yet face barriers to get to work. We can remove barriers to work and create paths for increased earnings. That’s why we created the GED program with Pearson to provide people with access to jobs and education while removing one of the biggest obstacles to learning — time.”

Shah calls the GED program a natural extension of ManpowerGroup’s MyPath program. “MyPath offers a college degree program and accelerated learning opportunities, on-the-job training, certification, and experience to our most motivated associates to help people access meaningful and sustainable jobs in in-demand careers.”

ManpowerGroup is just the latest major company to expand its employee educational programs. Taco Bell has a GED program as well as a discounted tuition program and a $4 million Live Mas scholarship program. McDonald’s says it has increased access to education for more than 38,500 workers since debuting its Archways to Opportunity program in 2015.

In addition, many companies are offering college-based education benefits as well. Walmart offers a $1 per day Live Better U for both completion of high school diplomas and college degrees. Benefits-eligible employees at Starbucks get 100 percent tuition coverage for a first-time bachelor’s degree through Arizona State University’s online program. And Disney provides 100 percent free college tuition to eligible employees through its Disney Aspire program.

Taco Bell, Disney, and Walmart are partnering with Guild Education for their education initiatives. Guild’s model is different from Pearson as it serves as a broker between online universities looking to increase their enrollment and companies seeking higher education benefits for their employees. Featured schools are Bellevue University, Brandman University, University of Denver, University of Florida Online, and Wilmington University.

Guild’s website promises companies a 208 percent return on investment (ROI) for every $1 spent on education benefits and an improved employee retention rate of 98 percent.

Companies have many reasons for entering into employee education.

“Organizations have open positions and can’t find skilled talent to meet demand. Workers struggle to keep their skills up to date and are often discouraged from applying to jobs because of the long list of very specific requirements,” says Shah. “It’s why we’re committed to helping our clients find the talent they need for in-demand jobs while helping people move up and progress in their careers. The GED program is the latest addition to our portfolio of solutions to do this.”

Other companies use the educational incentives to reduce turnover, foster a sense of loyalty, increase productivity, attract more motivated employees, and even get tax breaks from the federal government.

But every good education program needs administration, something these big companies aren’t set up to do. They are working with third-party educational providers to administer online classrooms for their employee/students.

ManpowerGroup is working with Pearson, one of the world’s largest education companies with 24,000 employees in 70 countries, for its GED program. Pearson provides a scalable direct-to-user education experience combining content and assessment through its own digital platform and services. The company’s website says that Pearson’s products and services are used by millions of teachers and learners around the world every day. Several factors go into creating a customized program for corporations like ManpowerGroup.

“We look at the organization’s performance and growth objectives, taking into consideration their industry, competition, and of course, the challenges their workforce is facing and how that ties back to critical business issues,” according to Rachael Bourque, Pearson’s Director of Accelerated Pathways. “This may include high levels of turnover, lack of internal talent pipelines, management bench strength, or the impact on performance based on new technologies being introduced into a role.”

“Our goal is to administer meaningful education and development solutions that help future-proof their workforce, from the front line employee to the boardroom executive. For some workers, they’re held back due to language or literacy issues. For others, a high school diploma will help them land a full-time position. And for others, going to college or earning a certificate helps them advance into management. We are constantly studying the education marketplace, researching, and benchmarking best practices to ensure we create win-win solutions for our clients and partners alike.”

For Pearson, creating ManpowerGroup’s GED program was the most effective way to help employees move forward in a work environment where education is becoming more and more important.

Bourque tells WorkingNation, “Many organizations still value the high school diploma as a qualifier for certain positions, which can prohibit many frontline employees from advancing in an organization without that credential. For those who didn’t get a chance to complete high school, a GED is an excellent way to help them achieve their high school diploma equivalency without having to commit years of their life to get it.”

“Manpower had candidates and associates who weren’t eligible for certain roles or couldn’t progress beyond their current position without obtaining a high school diploma equivalency. They wanted an efficient and effective solution to help these individuals progress in their lives and careers that was accessible and scalable.”

According to Manpower’s Shah, “The collaborative partnership with Pearson supports our goal of helping working adults get ahead in their careers with their online approach along with personalized coaching and support to each individual in the program. The key for us has been Pearson’s model, their tailored support provided to our associates, and the strong collaboration. A winning combination.

Jeff Ryder is an award-winning journalist, writer, and digital producer. His credits include initiatives for Verizon, Penske Racing, Sprint, Sony, McDonald’s, and Rolling Stone.

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