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Combatting the Great Resignation with Specialized Training

Businesses rely on corporate training programs to develop their workforce, but these programs must be adapted to their needs to be effective.
Businesses rely on corporate training programs to develop their workforce, but these programs must be adapted to their needs to be effective.

We’re currently living in a time where the need for corporations to find quality talent is as important as it’s ever been.

But more than just recruiting that talent, organizational leadership is tasked with providing enrichment solutions to retain and upskill employees and create a desirable workplace where individuals can thrive.

The alternative? A potential loss of staffing, a trend that is occurring at a rapid pace, and a phenomenon now known as the Great Resignation.

In fact, according to a recent article in Fortune, the number of resigning workers hit an all-time high in November 2021, with 4.5 million Americans leaving their jobs. That number is emblematic of 2021 as a whole. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 47 million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs last year.

But where does higher education fit into this workplace paradigm shift? Businesses rely on corporate training programs from colleges and universities to find the skilled employees needed to help their organizations succeed, as well as support and motivate their existing employees with opportunities for professional development in support of improving overall workforce development.

Corporate colleges provide services such as continuing education, customized training, industry certifications, professional development and more to help individuals and businesses succeed in today’s knowledge-based, high-tech economy.

The Corporate Training Ecosystem

In order to succeed, workforce development providers must work hand-in-glove with local businesses to ensure that their students gain skills that employers want. In turn, those same professional development opportunities are effective employee retainment tactics for companies to enrich the employee experience.

This type of industry-focused training also benefits companies and the economy as a whole. First, employers want a steady supply of qualified workers, while job seekers want to know that there will be a job for them at the end of their training program. Additionally, local governments want their economies to thrive and the tax base to grow.

To accomplish this, different players in the workforce development field—including businesses, education and training providers, unions, trade associations, local governments and workforce investment boards—need to come together to form training partnerships. These partnerships can constructively shape workforce development in the following ways:

  • Ensuring training programs are designed to reflect the skills employers or industries demand.
  • Identifying the industries anticipating or currently experiencing a shortage of qualified workers.
  • Spurring local or regional economic development through employee training.
  • Allowing partners to pool financial resources to expand training opportunities.
  • Helping partners share ideas and best practices.

The Important Role Higher Education Plays

Many colleges and universities are developing corporate colleges to promote these partnerships and serve as effective employee training vehicles.

These corporate training initiatives work best when they simulate actual work conditions closely and there are numerous ways in which corporate colleges can integrate realistic work experiences into training programs.

For example, classrooms or training facilities can recreate the workplace though hands-on instruction and projects that students would typically encounter on the job. A dress code, schedule and other rules that mimic the student’s future workplace also serve as an effective tactic.

In terms of learning opportunities, internships give students the chance to learn on the job during a temporary period of employment, while train-to-hire programs teach students vocational skills with the chance of being hired upon graduation.

The DNA of Successful College-Corporate Partnerships

Successful college-corporate partnerships don’t occur by merely selecting a school at random. Organizations need to determine which institutions would be a good fit by asking the following four questions:

1. Does the school’s vision and mission align with yours?

Look for a partner who values its students—your employees—as much as you do. To do this, you’ll need to find an institution that shares your culture of support and clearly understands your goals. As your needs change, a good partner institution should adapt to meet those evolving goals. This is the difference between a partnership and an agreement.

2. Does the school have experience supporting adult learners?

It’s important to find an institution that is a good fit for your workforce. They should have experience, passion and a commitment to supporting the unique needs of adult learners.

One of the easiest ways to determine this is by asking a university what percentage of its students work full-time or have children. Institutions that have a higher share of nontraditional students are much more likely to offer services that will actually support adult learners.

Perhaps most importantly, an institution should offer flexible learning options. Online, hybrid and self-paced programs are often more fitting for busy employees—and it’s even better if they have a choice of all three modalities. Having options can help students learn when and where it works for them so they can thrive at both work and school.

3. Are the programs customizable and career-focused?

Offerings need to be career-relevant in order to close any skill gaps that exist at your organization and set employees up for success. Some institutions will even create custom training for their corporate partners, allowing employers to focus on the exact areas workers need to develop.

4. Is the institution itself high in quality?

Like with any potential business partnership, reviewing the numbers is essential. When it comes to vetting a school, evaluating graduation rates is a good place to start. It can help indicate both student satisfaction and the success of institution support services.

While there are a lot of different reasons people don’t finish degrees, two common obstacles are a lack of preparation and competing obligations. A higher education institution with a high graduation rate could mean that students are given the tools necessary to navigate these challenges.

The Role of Leadership in Addressing the Great Resignation

The Great Resignation is creating challenges for many workplaces and it is important for leaders to think both creatively and comprehensively in order to address. Most importantly, finding ways to let employees know their value to the organization and engaging them in crafting their roles and the future of the organization will prove vital. Pittsburgh Technical College (PTC) engaged employees from every level of the organization to develop a five-year Strategic Plan to create a future by our design, and ownership was paramount.

The pandemic has yielded time for employees to reflect on what may be most important to them. Many are making decisions to change fields or even retire, presenting a new set of challenges for leaders.

We always want to keep our best employees and our best and most innovative thinkers. As a result, many of us are now thinking of the best ways to keep and attract the best people for our teams. 

A recent Gartner study showed that 48% of organizations have “significant concerns about turnover.”  

As a result, leaders have significant influence on some of these decisions and can make attempts to create a more flexible and supportive work environment. At PTC, we adopted a more flexible work from home schedule. Our new Remote Work Policy allows individuals greater control over their work week and the option to periodically work from home. Supervisors are empowered to implement, but must monitor and measure outcomes. 

It is also important to create opportunities for employees to be celebrated and have fun. At PTC, through our STARS Committee, we select an employee each month to be recognized and awarded for their commitment to the organization. There are opportunities to attend campus cookouts, be awarded gift certificates and attend sporting events as a way of engaging employees in the life of the College. 

Happy employees stay longer. As authors Adrian Gostick and Scott Christopher say in their book The Levity Effect, “With low unemployment rates and fierce competition for great talent, fun at work can provide a competitive advantage, help attract and retain employees, and provide the spark to jumpstart creativity.”

At the Pittsburgh Technical Corporate College (PTCC), we work to provide technical solutions to employers to help educate and retain a skilled and motivated workforce. At the same time, we understand that to succeed, the employees within an organization must continue to grow professionally in order to find workplace satisfaction.

PTCC is committed to building tomorrow’s workforce by analyzing business goals and developing training to advance a business’s most important asset: human capital.

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