The Growth of Workforce Week, and Why It Matters Most Now

These difficult times have brought greater exposure to widespread social inequality, and in the working world, a huge opportunity divide. Learn how programs such as Workforce Week are making a difference.

For the past five years, our Workmates have been giving back through an annual program called Workforce Week™. At its heart, Workforce Week is about coming together to help talented job seekers find meaningful, thriving-wage careers. 

Yet for a number of reasons, this year is different.

For the first time, we teamed up with others in the tech sector—Salesforce, LinkedIn, Okta, and DocuSign—to host virtual career workshops across the globe. This is a continuation of the growth of Workforce Week, which first started with one week of career development for job seekers at our California headquarters, but has grown over the years to encompass weeks of activity across our global offices. Since we share with other tech companies a collective objective and vision to create access to opportunity for all, it made perfect sense this year to combine our efforts to support the communities where we all live and work. 

This year is also very different because of what’s happened in the world around us. There’s no doubt COVID-19 is not only exposing inequalities, but it’s also having a disproportionate impact on diverse communities. We’ve seen it immediately in the number of workers who’ve lost their jobs in recent months. And while this impact started with a pandemic that continues today, it was followed by a series of acts of racial injustice, including the senseless loss of Black lives, that spurred civil unrest in communities everywhere. While each of these things alone are horrific, they’ve brought even greater awareness to some things that aren’t new: widespread racial and social inequality, and in the working world, an opportunity divide.  

It is common knowledge that talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not. In fact, we know race and zip codes can be predictors of future wealth, yet talented individuals are born and raised in families and communities everywhere. Through our Workforce Week activities, we want to help others secure lasting employment—wherever that may be.

Workforce Week-style events help job seekers build social capital—a network of professional relationships—which is a critically important element to the job search and one many are denied because of life experiences, zip codes, and work experiences. The ability to build social capital in professions in which job seekers have a passion or interest has proven time and time again to be a key to securing long-term, lasting employment. Tech industry employees who volunteer their time at a Workforce Week-style event—whether it’s conducting a mock job interview, reviewing a resume, or having an open and honest chat about careers—can help have a positive impact on others’ lives and careers.

In the time of a global pandemic where millions of jobs are lost, social capital could be the key differentiator for an individual entering or re-entering the workforce. 

Partnering With Innovators

If we know anything about the tech sector, it’s that the industry knows how to innovate, solve problems, and adapt quickly. We also know that many companies share our mission to help create economic opportunity for all. 

So far in 2020, hundreds of Workday employees across the globe have donated more than 700 volunteer hours to Workforce Week events, dedicating their time, expertise, and resources to help job seekers prepare for a potentially life-changing career. And, together with our tech industry partners this year, we’ve been able to bring Workforce Week events to cities such as Chicago, Dublin, London, New York, Paris, and more, and have partnered with more than 40 workforce development nonprofit partners globally. 

We’re proud to see a homegrown Workday program grow to serve as many job seekers as possible. It’s proven to be a scalable, sustainable program with only more growth and collaboration to come.

We’ve built free, downloadable Workforce Week toolkits, so that any organization or individual can help us in our mission to create economic opportunity for all.

Why Reskilling Is Key

When we think about the new way of working and reskilling workers for jobs of the future, we’re seeing an increasing need for workers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers. COVID-19 has left millions of individuals in our global workforce in the position to make a career transition because their careers are no longer in demand in this “new normal” we’re all living in, which is where reskilling comes into play. 

During Workforce Week, we partner with nonprofits like Year Up, JVS, JobTrain, Per Scholas, and others who are serving job seekers who have traditionally faced barriers to gaining equal access to opportunity. Many job seekers have come to these organizations with a desire to pivot their career paths and are looking to learn in-demand tech skills that lead to long-lasting careers. We’re seeing this wave of highly motivated people move into the knowledge economy, and it’s with programs like Workforce Week that we’re able to help prepare job seekers for their next step into the future. 

With our quick pivot to a virtual Workforce Week experience in light of COVID-19, this year’s virtual experience has opened the door for job seekers to the world of remote working. More and more companies are relying on remote workforces (especially in the tech sector), which means virtual interviewing, resume reviews, and more will become commonplace. Workforce Week, done virtually, has helped prepare them for what the future of work might continue to look like in a recovering economy. 

Join the Opportunity Onramps Movement

Now more than ever, it’s critical to close that opportunity divide. Here’s how we all can participate. 

Volunteer. Motivating your employees to volunteer with a Workforce Week-style event is just one way your organization can join the Opportunity Onramps movement. We’ve built free, downloadable Workforce Week toolkits—complete with draft agendas, communications, resources, and more—so that any organization or individual can help us in our mission to create economic opportunity for all. 

Look Beyond the Degree When Hiring. Many smart, talented, and motivated individuals don’t have the means to follow the traditional path from high school into college and then, by their early 20s, land a well-paying career. Consider creating Opportunity Onramps programs like our partnership program with Year Up, the Workday Returnship Program, and the Workday Career Accelerator Program to meaningfully diversify your workforce and close the opportunity gap. 

It’s been a tough year. But the only way to drive positive change is if we lend our own skills, time, and creativity to help others achieve equality in all aspects of life. It’s not just the best thing to do—it’s the right thing to do.

Learn more about some of the organizations we’re supporting, how we’re partnering with the PGA Tour for this week’s Workday Charity Open, and how you can join the cause.

If you’re interested in learning more about workforce development and how organizations can help aid in rapid re-employment for those whose employment has been impacted by COVID-19, don’t miss one of our upcoming #wdaychats in late July hosted by Carrie Varoquiers on LinkedIn Live with Ebony Beckwith, chief philanthropy officer, Salesforce, and CEO, Salesforce Foundation; Gayatri Agnew, senior director of Opportunity, Walmart; Lisa Countryman, CEO, JVS; and Maria Flynn, president and CEO, Jobs for the Future.

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