Starbucks made headlines in early June when the coffee giant announced plans to offer employees full tuition to Arizona State University’s online program. The company’s current college achievement program already offered two years of undergraduate tuition at ASU, and now baristas can earn a free bachelor’s degree.
Seventy percent of Starbucks workers don’t have a bachelor’s degree, according to CNN. The goal of the tuition reimbursement program is to provide underprivileged youth workers with a chance to get a college education. By providing workers with the opportunity for a better future, Starbucks is also increasing an educated workforce who can meet the skills requirements of employers, thus benefiting the economy. Along with tuition reimbursement, Starbucks pays its workers more than the federal minimum wage and offers health insurance and a 401(k) plan for many.
No longer are employers excluded from the responsibility and accountability of supporting continuing education and improving long-term outcomes of their employees. Businesses may not be able to provide full tuition reimbursement, but they can help educate their employees and meet the skill needs of the labor force with the following four tactics.
High School Completion Program
According to 2014 data from the U.S. Census Bureau and reported U.S. News & World Report, more than 29 million American adults have not completed high school. And during the 2012-13 school year, nearly 206,000 people enrolled in adult secondary education. Working adults realize the value of a high school diploma, yet they lack available and legitimate options.
The High School Completion Program provides employers with a solution to equip employees with a high school diploma. The flexibility and independent nature of the High School Completion Program enables employees to complete high school according to their own schedule. Based off a blended learning model, the program is also designed to help students who have part or full-time jobs and other responsibilities earn their diploma and transition into higher education.
Workplace Financial Education
Financial education is growing as an employer offering. According to U.S. News, a 2014 survey by Financial Finesse, a financial education provider, found that 23 percent of employees report “high or overwhelming" financial stress levels, and 63 percent report some level of financial stress. The report further suggests that companies that offer some kind of financial education program help reduce employees' financial stress and boost productivity. From student loan management to personal financial planning, workplace education can help employees gain control of their financial pressures. Access to financial advice, debt counseling and even online tools such as calculators, for example — offered and funded by an employer — can help workers manage their financial situation and re-engage their education.
Career or Workforce Development Program
Partnering with career or workforce development programs can help strengthen the academic and professional pathways of adult working learners. Career and workforce development programs provide employees the opportunity to complete post-secondary education, acquire essential workplace skills, attain industry credentials and engage in work-based learning.
The role of employers is to ensure programs are developed to meet the needs of the labor force and identify relevant workplace context. In this type of business/education partnership, employers and educators work in tandem with the goal of teaching students how to apply the curriculum to the workplace and develop advanced skill sets and training. Sharpening the skills and enhancing the knowledge of employees can boost productivity and advance business initiatives. Businesses can ultimately minimize the gap between available in-demand jobs and a lack of qualified workers.
Employers can create a workplace environment of lifelong learning to encourage employees to earn their high school diploma or go to college. Aaron Skonnard, CEO of Pluralsight, told Entrepreneur that his company "strive(s) to be a company of learners.” Skonnard believes that fostering ongoing learning in the workplace creates a pleasant, energized and successful workplace. Top employees aren’t afraid to question the status quo and collaborate during difficult situations. Employers can implement a culture of learning by investing in employee efforts to learn and reimbursing online classes, training programs or certification exams.
Also, set learning goals and acknowledge achievements as encouragement. Express the company’s commitment to lifelong learning and improvement. As a result of encouraging continuing educational advancement, a company can benefit from a more educated, productive and dedicated workforce.
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Resources: Photo Credit, Starbucks to give workers a full ride for college, ASU and Starbucks. Online Options to Complete a High School Diploma Limited for Adults, Why Workplace Financial Education Should Be Part Of Every Employer's Agenda, Penn Foster: Workforce Development, Engaging Employers to Support Adult Career Pathways Programs, How Making Employees Lifelong Learners Can Help Your Company Succeed, How Your Workplace Can Help You Manage Money