Talent Gap or Training Gap?

In the past, workforce training and development for blue- and gray-collar jobs took a back seat at many businesses and academic institutions. Schools often steered students toward white-collar career paths, while businesses put cutting costs, staying globally competitive, and turning a profit above training workers—a short-sighted focus on the next quarter rather than the next generation.

Today, we are dealing with the consequences of those inactions. A lack of high-level focus on blue- and gray-collar jobs, coupled with the realities of a booming economy, has created a training gap across the length and breadth of the U.S. economy. Many important sectors—manufacturing, transportation, supply chain, and engineering among them—face a shortage of qualified workers. Add a historically low unemployment rate, and the need for a long-term strategy and commitments of time, expertise, and money to develop the workforce of tomorrow grows even more important.

Businesses and schools across America are answering the call in a big way. Many companies are redoubling their worker training and career development efforts, while colleges, universities, and even some high schools are directing students to blue- and gray-collar entry level jobs, particularly in logistics and transportation.

One leader putting up phenomenal numbers in workforce and career development is Walmart. The retailer received some national attention for those efforts when, as part of the administration’s workforce development initiative, First Daughter Ivanka Trump visited a store in Mesquite, Texas. She met with members of Walmart Academy, a two- to six-week training program for supervisors and managers that the company launched in 2016. Walmart plans to open 200 nationwide sites that would train 140,000 workers annually, with a goal of one million employees in five years, providing the skills they need to advance both within Walmart or at another job.

"The program is a very effective way of training," notes one Walmart worker. "We enjoy it, we are engaged in it, and it provides an opportunity to see things that we might not come across in the day-to-day job."

We especially need workforce and career development training in the logistics and transportation sectors, and we are on the right path. Many companies are currently following Walmart’s example; many more should. We know there are other encouraging stories like Walmart’s out there. Tell us yours: [email protected].

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