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The upskilling economy: 7 companies investing millions of dollars in retraining American workers so they can find better jobs

Marguerite Ward
Business Insider

Originally published 11.2.20

  • As the coronavirus pandemic continues, millions of unemployed Americans are likely trying to upskill or reskill themselves (learn additional or new skills) to land in-demand jobs. 
  • By 2022, 54% of all employees will require significant upskilling due to automation and AI, according to the World Economic Forum. 
  • Several companies including JPMorgan, Accenture, and Verizon have already launched million and billion dollar programs to help Americans upskill. 

Within a few short weeks of the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, millions of Americans in sectors like hospitality, retail, and fitness lost their jobs. 

Facing limited job prospects as the pandemic drags on, many people are likely retraining themselves right now, looking for ways to upskill, add new skills, or reskill, retrain themselves in a new area.

Indeed, digital upskilling has increased during the pandemic as millions of Americans look for in-demand jobs, Reuters reported

The pandemic is accelerating the need for workers to upskill, a trend that has been growing for the last several years amid the rise of automation and AI.

In fact, by 2022, 54% of all employees will require significant upskilling, according to the World Economic Forum, which calls the phenomenon “the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” One-quarter of American jobs are at a high risk of automation by 2030, The Brookings Institute reported.

It’s a problem not only for workers, but for employers. 

As JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon wrote in a 2019 statement, “The new world of work is about skills, not necessarily degrees. Unfortunately, too many people are stuck in low-skill jobs that have no future and too many businesses cannot find the skilled workers they need.” 

To help prepare Americans for the changing job landscape, and to fill roles in booming sectors, multiple companies have taken it upon themselves to launch programs to upskill and reskill Americans. 

Here are seven firms that have invested large amounts of money in workforce development programs over the past two years.

Earlier this month, Verizon announced a $44 million upskilling program.

The telecommunications giant is rolling out a plan to help Americans impacted by the coronavirus land in-demand jobs. 

People who are Black or Latinx (a gender-neutral alternative to Latino or Latina), unemployed, or without a four-year-degree will be given priority admissions into the program that will train students to get jobs like junior cloud practitioner, junior web developer, IT help desk technician, and digital marketing analyst. 

In June, Bank of America announced a $1 billion commitment to help combat racial injustice, which included a program to upskill and reskill thousands of Americans.

The financial institution will be partnering with high schools and community colleges to train young adults for in-demand jobs. 

In Sept. 2019, PwC announced a $3 billion commitment to upskill all 275,000 of its employees.

“If you opt in, OK, we will not leave you behind. I can’t guarantee you the specific job that you have or want to have. But I can guarantee you you’re going to have employment here,” PwC global chairman Bob Moritz told Business Insider

In July 2019, Amazon announced a $700 million investment to retrain one third of its US workforce.

The retail giant announced it will help employees in non-technical roles, such as warehouse associates, to move into more technical IT roles. 

In June 2019, Accenture said it would be spending nearly $1 billion each year to retrain its workers.

The professional services firm committed to retrain nearly every worker at risk of losing a job to automation, using a large portion of the nearly $1 billion the firm spends on training each year, The Wall Street Journal reported.

In March 2019, JPMorgan announced a $350 million upskilling initiative.

The 2019 announcement builds on the financial firm’s original $250 million commitment made to upskilling in 2013. 

“Preparing America’s workforce to meet the demands of a changing economy is both an ambitious and an urgent challenge,” Jennie Sparandara, head of workforce initiatives at JPMorgan Chase said in a statement.

In March 2018, AT&T invested $1 billion to retrain nearly half of its workforce.

The telecommunications provider started a massive retraining effort, called Future Ready, after discovering that nearly half of its 250,000 employees lacked the skills needed to keep the company competitive, CNBC reported.

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