The ROI on Employer Education Programs

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Jason Tyszko, Vice President, Center for Education and Workforce at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation joined the podcast to talk about creating win-win workforce development partnerships between institutions and employers.
 

Employers could better target and make use of their tuition reimbursement benefits, of which they put out in a mount that rivals hell on a good year, approximately thirty billion a year. You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect eedu podcast network. I'm Eric Olson with Helix Education, and we're here today with Jason Tishco, Vice President of the Center for Education and Workforce at the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Jason, welcome to the show. Thank you, good to be here. Really excited to talk to you today about the ry for employers who prioritize employee education programs. But before we dig in, can you give the listeners a little background on the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation and your role there? Absolutely so. I actually work for both the US Chamber of Commerce as well as its foundation. So the US Chamber of Commerce is a Washington DC headquartered operation. It is a membership organization. We represent over one fifteen hundred state and local chambers of commerce across the country and collectively over three million firms. That makes us the world's largest business federation and we work on all manner of Education and workforce policy, representing the business voice in perspective in those conversations. I support the membership side, but today I'm here representing the US Chamber Commerce Foundation, which is our nonprofit affiliate which does not have a membership but is more philanthropically driven and driven through corporate sponsorships. So a lot of the work we're focusing on with respect to my team is how to elevate the employer leadership and engagement role in a wide variety of Education and workforce partnerships. So we're working all day long to make sure we have the...

...kind of system alignment we need so learners and workers are able to access the skills, training and credentialing they need in order to advance in their careers and to be part of our labor market in the American economy. So that's what we do and happy to share with you some business perspective on this topic. But also what we at the US Ember Commerce Foundation are doing to help facilitate it. Yeah, exactly why I was so excited to have you as a guest on this show. Jason, maybe to kick us off today, can you just give us a starting high level overview on the value proposition regarding the value for employers who do prioritize employee education programs? Yes, absolutely so. The first thing I want to start with is just recognition that, you know, the business community has a tremendous amount of skin in the game. The amount of money that employers invest annually and both tuition reimbursement as well as in formal and informal training, actually eclipses what the federal government provides on an annual basis through its grant and loan programs, and what we are trying to do is to really get our employers to think much more creatively and differently about how they're using those resources and who they're partnering with to deploy them. Because, while employers have a lot of skin in the game, they know that we're in an economy that competes on talent and for a long time a lot of these investments have been reserved for the precious view they were going to folks who were in more advanced ranks inside the company or they were being used largely as an employee benefit, so that the target was retention, and part of that was, hey, if you work for us, you know we can help reimburse some of your tuition costs if you're still going to a post secondary institution and trying to earn a credential or trying to earn a more advanced credential. So we know employers have been investing and they're investing for good reason, because it is a very attractive way of employers to be more hands on to prepare workers for jobs and careers and their sector and in their company. It's important...

...to them to advance people into critical roles and positions that would otherwise be vacant for long periods of time if they were trying to source this talent from the spot market. So we know that their economic competitiveness depends on their ability to choir and make use of talent. So these investments really need to make sure. The investments they make really need to be geared towards building a pipeline of talent that they can compete on, but also advancing those in careers, so their most critical jobs, to support their enterprises, but also to make these investments in a way that improve employee wellbeing and also to help employees manage their skills and skill obsolescence and always helping their employees so they're always remaining competitive in the labor market, and by doing that that builds good will, it builds a good relationship and that does result in improved retention, which companies want and need, and also saves them a lot of money if they do it well. But a lot of companies too, are also now looking at an expanded volley value proposition where it's not just about how do I get the talent I need and how do I keep that talent and grow it, it's also about how do I make sure that for those workers who are are not going to be here long term, and that applies to a lot of service sector jobs where we know there's going to be turnover and we know that this is a stop on some of these career journey, how do we make sure it's not just an employment experience but they are also getting a training experience that is recognized and valued where they can pursue continuing education. So if they move on, that good experience they've had can lead to referrals or could lead to them becoming a longtime customer of that particular company. So there's there's value in not only rowing your workforce and competing on that workforce, but there's also value in creating that good experience that can result in other benefits to the company. I love all of those different angles in terms of the task at hand, which is competing for talent. Right now let's dig into one of those. Just why is a focus on upskilling ones incumbent workforce one of an employer's biggest opportunities for...

...competitive success right now in a tight labor market? Yeah, so you know, upskilling is a critical part of any company's talent management strategy today, and there's a number of reasons why. If somebody comes to work for somebody and they don't have they don't see a clear or intentional pathway for how they can they can advance in their own personal career and working for that company, what that could result and it is that person not being there as long as you want them to be there. So that's where retention comes in. So by growing your own may not only build that good will, but it allows you to fill a critical job role and retain someone longer than they otherwise might be retained. There's an advantage to that. Now another reason why upskilling is so critically important is for a lot of these advanced jobs there's a skill gap. There's not a quick and ready talent pool available that, but for searching for them and them applying, could easily be filled. So you have these these more advanced positions inside companies that can go vacant for unacceptable periods of time. That can actually inhibit it a company's ability to compete and that becomes a problem. So if, instead of having a job dry out on the on the spot market, hoping and praying that a qualified candids going to come along, by upskilling, you can actually be more intentional and look from within and say, for those jobs that I don't have for whatever reason, I don't have a lot of confidence or I haven't had a good experience being able to source them from outside my company, this is a great way for me to be more intentional about identifying candidates that are well positioned to upskill and advance for those jobs that I might otherwise struggle to fill. And that just takes some intentionality on the part of the company to do it, but for a lot of them that's the best way to do it, particularly and tight labor markets or constrained labor markets, and you're starting to see that now, where there isn't a big enough labor pool available to fill all the needs that are out there. There's a huge gap in terms of the demand that employers have in a...

...wide variety of ways, but but especially for jobs, and the available supply of talent, in available workers who are the working age population. So that's a product of the pandemic and economic recovery, but it's also indicative of a larger work for a trend that was happening even before that, which has been exacerbated, which is we have a declining working age population. So employers are going to be in a space where they need to compete on talent, but they have to do more with less. And if you're thinking, as a company or an industry, that we're going to be able to find all the talent we need outside of our companies and we don't have to look from within, you're going to be putting yourself at a disadvantage. So it's just the nature of the market we're in today that companies that want to be successful have to look at upskilling as part of their solution because if they don't, they're going to have vacancies that are going to cripple their ability to compete in the market. I know you've seen some some very creative solutions here, some curious. From your perspective, how important is it for colleges and universities to avoid just offering their standard prefeed degree menu to a local employer and works to try and partially customize some programs for specific employers in order for these employer education partnerships to truly be successful? Yeah, so if I was speaking to any of our friends and higher education or in post secondary education, but at large, what I would suggest is one of the worst things you could do is go into sales mode and approach a company or group of companies and approach it as just just take what I'm selling, and what I mean by that is not understanding their needs and how to customize your programming and credentials to meet their needs. Will put you at a disadvantage in that conversation and for some companies back in the day, it was as simple as hey, look, I want to have this tuition reimbursement program I want to identify eligible institutions or programs where...

...someone were to go and spend money, I reimburse them and they set the criteria for how to use that. That benefit section one hundred and twenty seven of the code, the text code, and that's kind of going away. What you're seeing is for companies who are putting skin in the game, they want to see greater returns and value. So they're not just saying go after any degree or program they're saying we want to make sure that what people are learning will actually help build their skills and the clear they're trying to advance in, whether it's inside of our company or outside of our company. So they're being much more tactical about where you could use their training dollars or their tuition reimbursement benefits and they're trying to create some intentionality about where you're starting and where you're going. So companies are getting a lot more tactical about that. So understanding first and foremost. Like we we do talent supply chains through my organization, and we we help companies engage in collective action, identify their priority workforce needs, but clearly identify the pain points that are bringing them to this discussion or that's causing them to engage in collective action, and understanding those pain points and those goals those companies have is really critical, because it's not just going to be I want to generic benefit and I want to make sure people who come to my company have an opportunity to pursue higher education or credential that's good, but what's better is to come in and say, look, we know one of your issues as retention, or we know one of your issues is stilling certain job vacancies or standing up certain operations because you don't have the talent to do it. Let's make sure that we are coming in as an outside provider of education, training credentialing services and we are going to be working with your workforce, that we are delivering a customized program that's Taylor made to address your highest priority needs. And every company or every cluster of companies that come together are going to have potentially different needs. They're going to be somewhat related, but that that tweaking is going to be really important to speak to their needs and value proposition, because what we're going to see as companies have a lot of money in this game, but they're going to be very conservative when...

...it comes to how they're going to expend those resources and with whom. So the more your institutions in your programs, our position to say we can do it needs assessment with you to figure out how we can design reskilling and upskilling program services and credentials that could best address your most critical pain points while also adding the most value for your workers. That's going to be a powerful cell. But coming in and just saying hey, if you got tuition reimbursement dollars, you should have your workers come and attend our programs as they are, it might not go as well. And part of that also requires the institution to see through the delivery of the program because for a lot of folks, you know, they are already starting in their careers, they may be midway through their careers, and they don't have the the luxury of engaging with that programer institution like a traditional student who would, if there is such a thing anymore. And we need to think about access issues. How often somebody interfaces with that program so transportations an issue. Time is an issue. They're working, they're part of or raising families. So you need to think through the complexity of not just how are we addressing the employer pain points and goals with our program how do we fit in, but then how do we make our program as accessible and accommodating and supported so that those learners and workers could have meaningful access and participation and can persist in complete the program we've made for them, understanding that they're bringing a set of constraints and conditions and characteristics that might not reflect what we would consider a traditional student on our cantathetics chasing. Let's break down some final next steps. Advice for the to audiences that you work with the most, that you are beautifully and unique leave right in the middle of your next steps. High Level Advice for employers considering employee education partnerships who may have not been engaged in them or made it a priority in the past.

How do you suggest they approached that work? Yeah, right now at what I'd say is you have to bring every employer on a journey, and it's a journey of selfdiscovery and we all kind of come to this conversation with preconceived notions or assumptions about how things are and why things are the way they are and when the first bits of advice I give to employers, but really to anybody, is challenge your assumptions because you got to get in there. You have to do your homework and do the data on what's actually happening. And for a lot of companies, to get them to buy into additional investment in their current workers, into reskilling and upskilling, particularly if they don't have a lot of experience or history with it, is a big bet. But you need to not it's not so much lecturing and convincing as much as let's look at your data, let's look at what's happening now, let's look where you have job vacancies, let's look where you have retention issues and let's identify where we can actually incorporate some of these interventions with feedback from your employees to figure out what's the right mix of these kinds of upskilling and reskilling investments that could achieve your goals. But first we need to be able to identify what your goals are and be able to connect how this particular set of investments will be impacting those goals. So you know it's successful and if a company can actually be able to draw a direct line of site between these activities in these outcomes that contribute to this Roi, that's how you get them to invest more and that's how you get them to invest continually. So you have to set the game upright from the beginning. But it takes working with with whether it's an individual employer or group of employers, to go through that discovery process and to really look at the data and do their homework to understand why they should be in this business. It's not from a approaching it from a sense of corporate citizenship or corporate social responsibility. Is certainly a way to get somebody interested, but if you want them to do this as good business practice and to be fully invested, you have to connect to the business side of it. And when it comes to the higher education side, I'd say it's it's your...

...market to lose. If you're looking at where the money's going to be at and where the populations at who could be benefiting from these services. It's the incombent workforce. It's the current mix of existing employees who are going to be in need of reskilling and upskilling. Whether they're sticking with that company or industry or moving to another one, because we are in an economy that will compete on skills and the threat of skill obsolescence is very real. The half life of skills will only get worse. So we need to make sure that, and that's beyond just education, that WHO's how we finance education. There is a lot of dimensions for this, but if you're looking at where's the market that's in need of education, training and credentialing services on a continual basis, it's largely young adults and folks who are midxting through their careers will already working. Book of the workers and learners at the same time, if you're able to organize the educational experience that's a commodating but also one that can meet their employers needs. So it's not the individual having to go it alone. I have to go work my job, I have to raise my family, I have to do all my other responsibilities and I need to reskill it. It's making that easier and saying it's one and the same if we want it to be and we can make it such that it's integrated with your employment experience. It has the support of your employer and it's funded by your employer or financed, and that's where we can talk about how employers could better target and make use of their tuition reimbursement benefits, of which they put out an amount that rivals, tell on a good year, approximately thirty billion year, and it could also be used to say, well, Hey, if individuals are actually taking out debt or having loans to access these opportunities, under the current tax code employers are now able to actually help pay down that that without it counting as taxable income to the employee. So there you have an opportunity to say hey, well, we'll pay for it up front. Will reimburse you or should you be arriving with that or taking on that, we can help retire that that. Now we need to make that benefit more permanent. That that's a conversation for another day, but there's what I'm trying to get across as...

...it's about accommodating the learner when they are a worker, it's about getting the employer bought in and it's about making it a shared risk and shared value creation proposition where the employers benefiting, the workers benefiting and the worker is not incurring all of the risk, but that risk is share with the employer, who also has more skin in the game, and that's, I think, is the way to approach it and the way it's going to work for both parties. It's going to take employers understanding how it fits within our larger talent management trategy to the point where they will only put skin in the game, and it's going to take the education, training and credentialing providers their ability to approach employers, connect to their value proposition and then find ways of accommodating their workplace culture and environment so these learning services become one and the same as the employment experience and that the employer is able to provide more direct investment which takes so much of the burden a risk off the learner worker themselves. Jason is such great counsel and Great Advice. Thank you so much for your time today. What's the best place for listeners to connect with you and your team with they have any follow up questions? Yeah, we're happy to engage with and work with anyone. We are very accessible. The best way to connect with us is via email. I'm happy to give you my personal email address. It's my first initial last name at US Chambercom. My first initial is j, my last name is spelled teas and Tim why is in yellow, s, as in Sam Zias and Zebra Kas and Kevin and O as an Oliver so jtys Z Ko at US Chambercom and we'd be happy to connect with you if you're a education institution that's seeking to kind of rethink and recalibrate how you engage employers effectively and how you better understand their needs and can help them codesign solutions. And we're also happy to engage with any employers or any employer partners of theirs to think through what they need to do internally to kind of organize their work for strategy and start producing better, more actionable data about their needs so...

...they could be a much more effective and accommodating partner to you. So we work on both ends, but we're happy to help kind of build that bridge and create that system level alignment. Yeah, we're we do that all day long and we do all over the country. We have a networks operating and over thirty eight states and even in Canada, and we'd be just really privileged they have the opportunity to engage with with your audience on these issues. Jason, keep up the wonderful work and thank you so much for joining us today. Thank you. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded today for free at Helix Educationcom. Playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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