The survey revealed that only 35 percent of corporations feel new recruits and students are well prepared with both hard and soft skills to perform at a high level in a professional environment.
Clearly, there is more room to partner with educators to address these shortcomings. Only 30 percent of corporations and 39 percent of educators say they are collaborating to help reskill and retrain employees.
One of the most interesting examples of such collaboration is Discover Financial Services’ recently announced Discover College Commitment program. The benefit, available to all employees, covers all tuition and required supplies to complete online degrees at one of three schools—the University of Florida (via UF Online), Wilmington University, and Brandman University.
“We owe it to our employees to prepare them for what the world is going to bring them for the next 5, 10, 15 years,” said Jon Kaplan, vice president of training and development at Discover Financial Services, who discussed the program during a reskilling case study panel hosted by Jaime Fall, director of The Aspen Institute’s UpSkill America.
In addition to providing employees with a great benefit, the program also gives Discover an advantage in a market where it competes with extremely large banks.
“Our competitors are massive. We will not out-muscle them, so we have to out-agile them,” said Kaplan. “How do we do that? With smarter employees.”
Discover was able to negotiate a discount on tuition rates, and many employees also qualify for education grants. The company also utilized Guild Education, which helped select the right colleges and manages the contracts, provides academic counseling, and handles tuition reimbursement processing.
“Our projections of how popular this program would be were wildly underestimated,” Kaplan said. “We thought it might scale to 1,500 applicants in three years. In the first week, 400 people had started filling out applications, and more than 800 started within the first month.”
Even better, Discover’s attrition rate dropped by 50 percent the first month the program was announced, and feedback from recruiters is that it’s helping with hiring, too.