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Creating Shared Value: Job Training

How can job training partnerships between companies and U.S. community colleges create shared value for business and society? That question has been on my mind as I’ve read about the recent community college summit held in Washington, DC.

While four-year colleges and universities fill the talent needs of many companies, the role of community colleges has become particularly pronounced given that eight in 10 new jobs will require some level of workforce training and postsecondary education over the next decade.  In response to the growing need for skilled labor, the White House has announced a public-private partnership called Skills for America’s Future, led by the Aspen Institute with other multi-sector partners, to help retrain workers for jobs that are in demand.  According to media reports, the national program is in response to employer and employee complaints that public retraining programs do not adequately provide students with employable skills.

Several corporations – Accenture, Gap, McDonald's, Pacific Gas & Electric, and United Technologies Corporation – have signed on to the new initiative to scale job training programs they are currently running. From my perspective, the primary short-term driver for companies to participate in the job training initiative likely centers on building goodwill in communities where they do business. However, these job training partnerships may also present an opportunity to go beyond traditional reputation benefits to creating shared business and social value.

For example, Gap’s role in the job training partnership could potentially create shared value for business and for society if the job training partnership enhances Gap’s competitive context in the job market.  Through its commitment of in-store job shadowing, interview and leadership training, and scholarships, Gap expects to hire up to 1,200 students from community colleges in 2011, representing approximately five percent of its annual hiring. The opportunity for joint value creation will not only drive social value (increased educational and career opportunities for more community college students), but it will also drive business value (creating a customized pipeline for Gap to meet key talent needs). Gap’s leadership has championed the initiative, and the company is leveraging its existing expertise in job training while also exploring how to use multiple brands (e.g., Banana Republic, Old Navy) as additional delivery mechanisms for the job training. All of this points to a promising shared value opportunity for Gap, should the project go beyond meeting corporate goodwill requirements.

It will be interesting to see if other companies identify the shared value potential of joining this job training partnership.

Robert Albright

Former Director of Programs, Collective Impact Forum