‘The New Minimum Wage’: Access to Training, Reskilling

COVID-19’s impact on jobs and the economy has been profound and, quite honestly, confusing. On the one hand, stories of people who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic – and are now starting to lose government benefits and eviction protection – have become both commonplace and gut-wrenching.

At the same time, there are signs and postings everywhere desperately looking to hire people, from large companies to small-town restaurants. Short-staffed organizations are being forced to delay orders, adjust their hours of operation, and make many other uncomfortable changes to keep their businesses alive.

While there is no simple reason these often-conflicting trends are occurring simultaneously, one undeniable fact is that we’re witnessing a significant and rapid-paced shift in the jobs environment. In short, there’s often a gap in the skills required for a given position versus the capabilities job seekers currently have.

Once seen solely as a place for a select set of highly educated individuals, the tech world’s profound and growing impact on society has made its importance and relevance reach into every sized town and every demographic group in the country.

Getting the tech industry workforce to accurately reflect the amazing diversity of the country, however, has not been an easy task, particularly when you dig into job categories requiring specialized skill sets.

Thankfully, numerous tech companies are deploying a wide range of different approaches to help overcome the diversity inequities that have plagued the tech industry for decades now, including several that I provide consulting services to. Leading chipmaker Intel, in conjunction with Dell Technologies, for example, recently announced a major expansion of its AI for Workforce program, which is designed to help community college students gain skills in the highly sought after and potentially very lucrative field of artificial intelligence.

Specifically, the program is working with 18 community college systems across 11 states (with plans to add another 50 schools in 2022) to create a curriculum built around classes in topics like data collection, computer vision, AI model training, coding, and the societal impacts and ethics of AI technology, all of which will lead to both associate degrees and certificate programs in AI.

►Amazon free college program:Amazon to pay college tuition, books and fees for U.S. employees starting in January 2022

►Work study:Target joins Walmart in paying for college for employees; free books also included

Who is benefiting from training

Intel is providing the class materials to these schools for free – which traditionally have had a much larger percentage of ethnic minorities and lower income levels than four-year colleges – and is working with local community college professors to customize the programs to meet the unique needs of a given community. Dell Technologies is providing guidance on how to best configure the AI labs for various types of teaching styles, including remote and hybrid, to make the materials available to as wide a range of students as possible.

Fresh off its impressive announcement last week of its plans to hire 55,000 new employees and to host a massive job fair on Wednesday , Amazon on Monday announced several new training and educational initiatives. First, the company will offer fully-funded college tuition, GED and ESL support for 750,000 of its operational employees, such as its warehouse workers, starting in January.

Courtesy 9/14/21 USA Today by Bob O’Donnell

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