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Guild Education

Over the past year, store closures and in-person restrictions have sparked an explosion in ecommerce and virtualized shopping, accelerating the digital revolution’s pre-COVID trajectory by five to seven years. But as consumer expectations outpace brand capabilities, this rapid digitalization is revealing a skill gap in the workforce. “The pandemic has exposed a shortage of digital skills in retailing,” the Wall Street Journal reports. To seal the fault lines, companies are retraining workers—ushering in a new formula for employee education.

Levi Strauss & Co is reskilling their employees for a digital-first future. In May 2021, the brand announced a new company-wide digital upskilling initiative for its employees. The keystone of the initiative is the Machine Learning Bootcamp, an eight-week, full-time, paid program that offers employees training in digital skills like coding and machine learning. Graduates of the Bootcamp will either return to their current job with new skills or will join Levi’s strategy and AI team.

Verizon is also committing to reskilling employees for digital work. The company invested over $200 million in employee learning and development programs in 2020, offering training in topics like data science, 5G technology and artificial intelligence. By the end of 2021, Verizon plans to equip 100,000 employees with digital skills “to ensure team members are ready to keep pace with ever-changing demands of building the future.”

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Guild Education

Walmart, too, is funding employee education. Walmart employees can earn a high school or college degree for $365 (or $1 per day for a year), through a partnership with Guild Education. From April 2020 to April 2021, Walmart said the program saw a 93% spike in both high school and college graduates.

Business is changing—and required employee skillsets are changing with it. As the digital revolution races on, brands are realizing that the fastest and most effective way to keep pace is to upskill their existing workforce. Where specialized college or graduate degrees may once have been a prerequisite, companies are now encouraging employees to learn as they go. Rachel Carlson, cofounder and CEO of Guild Education, predicts that this will give rise to a new formula for education—one that may even supplant a college degree. “The four-and-40 is dead: go to school for four years, work for 40,” Carlson told the “Masters of Scale” podcast. “What’s now is the-every-four: you have to learn some new skill every four years.”

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