When the Milken Institute asked me recently how business can help drive shared prosperity, I pointed to what we can do with workforce development. There are a record number of open jobs across the U.S. economy, and many of these positions are new digital roles or middle-skill positions that can be attained by completing a two-year technical degree or apprenticeship. Our response, I wrote, should be to manage our workforce development agenda in a way that doesn’t leave anybody behind.
A key part of this agenda is lifelong learning. At this rate of technological transformation, no one can rely on our education systems to teach them everything they’ll need to know throughout their careers. Whether it’s taking an online course, going to a conference or participating in a hands-on skill session or retraining program, lifelong learning keeps us engaged in our own career development.
Let’s look at this from an employer perspective too. We hear a lot about a tight labor market and companies finding themselves in a war for the talent they need to pursue digital transformation. Yet why only look outward for talent when there’s already so much talent (and experience) within? If your company is pursuing digital reinvention, why not inspire your own team members to drive change and pursue reinvention themselves?
What we’re discovering at Siemens is that lifelong learning helps folks own their careers. The $50 million Siemens invests annually in U.S. employee training programs helps our workers continually learn new things, sharpen or expand skillsets, grow professionally, and better serve customers.
Just last week, I had a chance to spend time with five Siemens employees whose stories exemplify why employee training programs are a critical investment in human capital.
John Crescenzo, Benjamin Clark, Chris Conley, Kaitlin Greene and Chad Robinson joined me for an event at the White House honoring The Pledge to America’s Workers Anniversary Event. As part of the pledge, Siemens committed to expand its U.S. education and training opportunities to benefit 75,000 workers over the next five years – and the colleagues who joined me are a model to others in how they’ve pursued new training and learning opportunities.
Chad was ranked in the top ten of his high school class and applied to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. After being accepted to the college, Chad decided to take a different path and entered the Siemens apprenticeship program. He wrote on our blog:
“When I think about this path I’ve chosen, I realize I’ve just swapped the typical order of things: instead of college first, career second, I’ve entered a work environment that allows me to get paid as I learn on the job and go to college for free, and that all but guarantees me the opportunity to start my career at Siemens earning at least $55,000 a year.”
John, meanwhile, is a U.S. Navy veteran who is among the 2,500 veterans that Siemens has hired since 2011. In his first seven months with Siemens, the Orlando-based Technical Trainer has already received extensive training. Formal and informal training programs have helped him learn the Siemens technology that he will be teaching to others.
Benjamin has taken advantage of an e-learning course on Digitalization that is offered to Siemens employees tuition-free. This is helping him in his role as Strategic Marketing of Digitalization for Process Industries and Drives. And it’s also helping his colleagues, as he shared the e-learning course with members of his department.
Chris has taken six training courses since Siemens made the pledge. He also created a comprehensive training plan after starting his current position as Head of Oil and Gas Service Programs – Region North America. “Training opportunities within Siemens have helped me grow in my career and achieve a leadership role,” Chris says. “One of the things I’m most excited about now is making sure I’m communicating and advocating for training to help develop and grow my team members.”
Kaitlin is a first-year apprentice at Siemens Charlotte Energy Hub and is enrolled in Computer-Integrated Machining at Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC). In addition to her academic studies, though, Kaitlin is taking advantage of the on-the-job training that’s an integral part of the Siemens apprenticeship model, which has expanded from the Charlotte pilot site to eight states.
Our apprenticeship program primarily targets high school seniors and veterans transitioning back to the civilian workforce. Yet they aren’t the only ones taking advantage of these training resources; longtime employees are now leveraging the program to update their skills too.
There are roughly 500,000 open positions in manufacturing nationwide, according to the National Association of Manufacturers. And while Kaitlin started in another career field, she was inspired to make a change into manufacturing by her father, a 30-year machinist.
Kaitlin now hopes – and I’m hopeful – that her experience training as an apprentice can inspire others to follow her path.
There isn’t just one path to your education or career journey – and your journey can start at any time.
What really matters is that you never stop learning.