Detroit Regional Chamber > Education & Talent > Workforce Success Toolkit

Workforce Success Toolkit

Grow Detroit's Young Talent

Talent Drives Economic Prosperity

Investing in education, training, and upskilling opportunities for the workforce benefits not only workers, but employers and the Region as a whole.

Talent is one of employers’ most critical assets in building and scaling their organizations. Without the right talent, businesses struggle to boost productivity and provide the quality products and services needed to drive profits.

Education attainment and advancement are also crucial for the Region’s economic prosperity. There is a direct correlation between the percentage of adults 25 and older with a postsecondary degree and per capita income across major cities in the United States. The more adults 25 and older with a postsecondary degree in our Region, the higher the Region’s per capita income. Applying a racial equity lens to education advancement and attainment only improves this correlation, ensuring all workers have access to economic opportunities and career outcomes that will further strengthen our regional economy.

The Detroit Regional Chamber offers a variety of talent solutions for employers to support talent development and upskilling initiatives for their workers. It developed the Workforce Success Toolkit to serve as a resource for employers as they navigate strategies to attract, develop, advance, and retain their current and future talent.

This toolkit provides the framework and resources for developing upskilling programs tailored to each employer’s needs. For additional information or tips for implementing this toolkit, check out the Workforce Success Webinar Series, led by Jon Kaplan, former chief learning officer at Discover Financial Services and national leader in employer-led upskilling and tuition assistance support.

College Attainment

Wondering Where To Start?

Equity Pays

In this Toolkit:

Tuition Assistance

Tuition Assitance

Providing tuition support for employees is good for your workforce, but it’s also good for business. Unfortunately, the benefits to business performance and profitability aren’t widely understood; as a result, employers often miss out on the many business gains that come with a robust tuition assistance program. This section will help make the case for a tuition assistance program that works for your organization and will help you understand your likely return on investment.

Effective Employees

Making the Case

Providing tuition support for employees is good for your workforce, but it’s also good for business. To successfully develop a tuition assistance program, there needs to be buy-in from business leadership. This section will help make the case for a tuition assistance program that works for your organization and will help you understand your return on investment. It includes resources and strategies for calculating costs and potential return on investment, addressing misconceptions, and making the case to the executive team and the board.


Are you ready to move forward with a tuition assistance program? This section provides implementation tools, from a step-by-step project plan to a budget calculator to help assess program costs. In addition, you’ll find resources for spreading the word about your program and the benefits of continued education, to ensure utilization is strong.

Tuition assistance programs are proven to increase employee satisfaction, reduce turnover, and lead to internal promotions, all of which lead to savings.

Calculating Costs

Much of the cost saving for tuition assistance programs comes from reduced expenses for recruiting and onboarding caused by employee turnover. Tuition assistance programs are proven to increase employee satisfaction, reduce turnover, and lead to internal promotions, all of which lead to savings – both in terms of direct expenses and staff time spent on recruiting, onboarding, and training new employees. To help make the case to your leadership, calculate your own turnover cost. 

Tuition assistance policies also lead to increased internal promotion rates, which are beneficial to businesses that struggle to find skilled workers to fill certain positions. Looking internally at your workforce – and providing potential candidates with the education and tools needed to be successful in higher-skilled positions – helps solve employer talent gaps while boosting employee morale and loyalty.

SHRM estimates promoting internally is 18-20% less expensive than hiring externally. Calculate your internal promotion rate. If this number is lower than your company’s internal expectations – especially for your front-line employees – education assistance is a proven method to increase internal promotions and thus reduce costs.

Addressing Misconceptions And Barriers

Misconception One: College costs a lot so my tuition assistance program will cost a lot too.

There are actually several misconceptions here. Let’s start with the first one: college is expensive. While tuition at many colleges is astronomical, there are also extremely affordable options. The average cost per credit hour at a two-year community college in Michigan is only $183. At that rate, a complete Associate Degree costs only about $11,000. If a student were to transfer their first 60 credits to a four-year college in Michigan, they could complete an entire bachelor’s degree for an average cost of about $33,000.

This figure does not take into account Michigan’s free community college program, Michigan Reconnect, which allows Michigan residents ages 25 and older to attend community college tuition-free. Qualifying employees can receive an associate degree with their tuition fully covered, so employers do not need to cover these costs. However, assistance programs should still account for expenses like books and allow for flexible scheduling and other supports so that employees can access educational opportunities.

Moreover, there are a lot of ways to structure your tuition assistance program to reduce the overall cost to the company.

  • First, you can require that participating employees complete their first 60 credits at a community college (potentially at no cost, through Michigan Reconnect).
  • You could also require that they apply for federal financial aid by filling out and submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Federal student aid often covers 80-90% of the tuition cost, so in those situations, your company would only pay a few hundred dollars a year per employee.
  • Finally, you could cap your company’s per-employee annual contribution or offer to pay only a set percentage of each employee’s out-of-pocket costs. Many companies will only contribute 90% of tuition expenses up to a maximum of $5,000 per year per employee.

All of these can radically reduce the overall cost of your company’s tuition assistance program.

Misconception Two: It will increase my company’s turnover.

While it stands to reason that helping your employees gain a college degree will make them more attractive to your competitors and will increase your overall attrition, all of the research categorically disproves this misconception. Tuition assistance programs reduce attrition because they provide an avenue to build the skills you value at your company. This helps ensure that they have opportunities for advancement, reducing the stagnation employees feel, which is often a primary driver of attrition.

Tuition assistance programs moreover show a level of commitment to the wellbeing and long-term prospects of your employees – something for which your employees will be forever grateful. Employees tend not to leave employers that they feel are committed to their success.

For companies who employ primarily front-line workers in positions that don’t require a degree or credential, it’s true that many of these employees will leave the company after completing their education – there simply aren’t enough high-skilled positions at these companies for credentialed workers to move into. However, even these companies see positive outcomes on their attrition numbers, as education assistance programs keep employees at a company for at least two years while they’re completing a degree, much longer than many of these high-turnover positions see otherwise.

Read more about how tuition assistance leads to increased retention here.  

Misconception Three: It will be time-consuming and difficult to administer.

While it’s true that tuition assistance is another program that has to be actively managed, the administrative burden is less than you might expect. First, most colleges and universities recognize that students often rely on the support of their employers, so the paperwork they receive is usually pretty easy to understand.

Secondly, employees are often so grateful for the program that they are happy to do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. If you require that they keep track of their expenses, highlight their out-of-pocket costs with a yellow highlighter, submit all receipts in a single envelope, and fill out a variety of forms for each semester, they will gladly do so. Finally, there are a whole host of very affordable tuition assistance administration outsourcers. This can completely eliminate any administrative burden for the company.

Getting Buy-In

We have provided some case-making resources and reports from other companies, as well as documents that you can download and customize with your logo and company information to help you make the case to your executive team and board.

As you gather your supporting evidence and case studies, consider the following approaches to making the case most effectively for broader access to tuition assistance.

  • Spend some time gathering feedback from employees who are trying to earn a degree while working full time. Talk to your HR department about the costs of attrition and challenges with employee engagement. Gather feedback from your executives on the skills and abilities their employees need to develop to help the company succeed. This will help you clearly articulate a set of business problems to solve.
  • Ask yourself who stands to benefit when attrition drops, and engagement increases as a result of broader access to tuition assistance? It’s often leaders in the areas of the company that rely on employees who will likely take advantage of the program who will be your natural allies and can help you make the case to executive leadership.
  • When enlisting internal business leaders as stakeholders, consider framing your solution less as a benefit to employees and more as a way of addressing costly business problems such as attrition, disengagement, skill deficiencies, and shortages of critical talent.

Tools And Templates

Implementing or Growing a Program

Once you have buy-in and are ready to move forward with a tuition assistance program, it’s important to develop a vision and priorities, as well as a detailed plan for program implementation – including a program budget, marketing and promotion materials, and an evaluation plan. Our comprehensive implementation guide provides steps for developing a plan from start to finish, including a budget calculator to help assess program costs and effective marketing to increase utilization for both new and existing plans. We recommended reviewing Detroit Drives Degrees’ recommendations and best practices here.

Tools And Templates

Stage 1: Conceptualizing And Planning

First, assess your current policies and attitudes around education assistance and creating a culture of learning by taking the following ten-question True-or-False quiz.

Our company:

    1. Articulates the goal of higher education attainment for our employees (T/F)
    2. Includes education goals in performance reviews (T/F)
    3. Provides education and development advising to employees (T/F)
    4. Mentors employees on education and training (T/F)
    5. Offers employee flexibility to pursue education goals (T/F)
    6. Partners with education and training institutions to promote educational opportunities (T/F)
    7. Reimburses some or all of tuition and fees (T/F)
    8. Establishes College Savings and/or Lifelong Learning Accounts as payroll deduction benefit (T/F)
    9. Offers loans or loan forgiveness programs to employees to manage student debt (T/F)
    10. Celebrates completion of degrees, certifications, or classes (T/F)

This baseline information will help you determine what you currently offer and how to scale your education assistance programming to make it more accessible and beneficial to employees. Consider adding one element described above each year as you grow and enhance your program.

Next Steps: 

  • Facilitate a strategic planning process to help identify why a tuition assistance policy is the right fit, and what you want that policy to look like. Lumina Foundation provides a great resource for doing this, with 10 essential questions to ask.
    • To ensure your planning is consistent with your equity goals, invite women and workers of color to be part of your strategic planning process. You may also want to incorporate the Racial Equity Impact Assessment into your planning.
  • Have exploratory conversations with all necessary parties, such as business’ attorney and CPA, to understand all legal and tax implications.
  • Create a business case to help leadership understand the financial and talent benefits that education assistance policies bring to an organization.

Stage 2: Budgeting

Calculate a baseline program budget by multiplying:

(Cost per credit hour*) x
(Maximum # of credit hours allowed per employee in a year) x
(Maximum # of employees who will utilize the benefit in a year) =
Baseline tuition budget 

*Cost per credit hour will vary by institution, so come up with an average that you can use to guide your budget. This is a great reference point.

Example Budgets:

Example Budget

If budgetary constraints do not allow for you to cover full tuition for employees, you may also decide to offer a set amount per employee (for example, $500 per employee per semester).

  • Do you want to cover just tuition and fees or also budget some money to cover books, transportation to and from class, etc.? If so, these expenses will get added to your baseline budget.

Stage 3: Crafting The Policy

Write a clear, detailed policy that addresses the following questions:

  • Who is administering the benefit?
  • Who is eligible? 
    • Open to full-time staff only or both part- and full-time?
    • Minimum years of tenure?
    • Limited to employees in the US?
    • Open to everyone, or only those who meet certain educational requirements (e.g. does not already have a postsecondary degree)?
  • Which schools qualify? 
    • All accredited institutions or only certain ones?
  • Which programs qualify? 
    • Is policy limited to undergraduate degrees or are graduate degrees also covered?
    • Does your business provide tuition assistance for all education, or is assistance restricted to certain areas of study that are directly related to your business and talent needs?
    • Is there a process to appeal for a program that is not listed?
  • What is reimbursable? Tuition, fees, books, etc.?
  • Are there financial aid requirements? Are employees required to file a FAFSA in order to be eligible?
  • Are there academic performance requirements?
  • Is there a length of time the employee must stay with the company following completion of the course?
  • Can the employee use PTO to attend classes? Is flexible scheduling available?
  • What is the application process? How is selection determined?

Considerations for determining eligibility:

  • Do some data analysis around your company’s postsecondary education rates, disaggregated by race/ethnicity. You will likely find that the gaps at your company reflect the larger gaps that are seen in the region. Targeted upskilling initiatives can help to close these gaps.
  • While a six- or 12-month tenure requirement seems reasonable, it can prevent your company from using the most effective retention tool on the population of employees that have the highest attrition. Consider a two- to three-month tenure requirement instead.
  • Remember that your employees may not be the savviest consumers of higher education. Consider pre-vetting programs from colleges and universities that can prove high student outcomes upon graduation.
  • If your company needs employees with certain hard-to-find skillsets, such as computer engineering or analytics, consider increasing your support for employees who choose programs that have greater benefit to the company.
  • For tuition reimbursement programs, avoid making reimbursement subject to the final grade an employee achieves. While this seems like a perfectly reasonable policy to ensure employees are motivated to work hard, it has the untended consequence of leaving employees whose grades suffer in the face of an unexpected crisis with an unanticipated liability of hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Consider instead tying eligibility to a cumulative GPA that is calculated when a student requests course approval.

Sample policy and application documents can be found at the top of this page under Tools and Templates.

Stage 4: Marketing And Promotion

While many employers offer a tuition assistance program, overall utilization is very low. A dedicated marketing strategy will help get more employees connected to the program.

Develop an initial outreach plan to share details of the launch or expansion of the program.

Outreach channels should include:Marketing and Promotion

  • Email to employees
  • Announcement at staff meeting
  • Flyers around the office
  • Post on social media
  • Post on payroll website

Develop an ongoing communication plan for new hires and to regularly remind current employees of this opportunity.

  • Include informational flyer in benefits packet given to all interviewing candidates
  • Include in new hire paperwork
  • Provide a brief overview during new hire orientation
  • Send periodic email communication about the program and its advantages

Engage managers in the communication process and make it clear how they should promote and incentivize this benefit.

  • Discuss tuition assistance during performance reviews and check-ins
  • Make sure supervisors are empowered to support their direct reports who might be interested in returning to a postsecondary program or attending for the first time, and that they are informed enough to provide information and guide employees to additional resources.

Come up with materials to explain to employees the benefits and advantages of attending college.

For a lot of adults, the decision to go back to school is a difficult one because of time constraints, nervousness, and lack of clarity around the ways that additional education can have a personal benefit. Consider a one-pager or brief PowerPoint deck. See the “Marketing Your Program” tab for templates.

  • Also include information about paying for college (beyond the support offered by your business) through the FAFSA, scholarships and grants, debt forgiveness, etc.

Target your marketing to advance racial equity. Make sure your Black and Latinx workers know about these opportunities. Instruct managers and supervisors to encourage participation among their workers of color. Elevate Black and Latinx employees with degrees and credentials and ask them to share their stories about how they pursued their education and how it benefits them today.

  • Also target your marketing and outreach based on earnings. An employer in Colorado provides every employee earning less than $40,000 a year an annual meeting with HR to explore career options and maximize education benefits.  
  • Promote tax benefits.
    • A tax credit of $5,250 is available for every participating employee. Each employee can take up to $5,250 of educational benefits and pay no additional income tax. Over $5,250, employees have to pay income tax on the “imputed income.” According to SHRM:

Favorable tax treatment for qualifying educational assistance programs has existed by law since 1978 but has been repeatedly scheduled to sunset and then extended. On Jan. 1, 2013, Congress passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. The act permanently extended employer-provided educational assistance and allows an employee to exclude from income up to $5,250 per year in educational assistance at the undergraduate and graduate level regardless of whether the education is related to his or her job.

Stage 5: Providing Additional Supports

What other supports will be available to employees as they navigate this process?

  • Is flexible scheduling an option so that employees can attend courses during working hours if necessary?
  • Are there any supports around childcare? Resources may be available through the State of Michigan.
  • Consider hosting a mobile reconnect café where a trained college access expert can provide resources to your employees and answer broad questions. Detroit Reconnect can provide this service.
  • Detroit Reconnect LogoConnect employees to an adult adviser who can give one-on-one support and answer specific questions that come up about the college-going process. Detroit Reconnect can provide this service.
  • Are there trained college ambassadors on staff who can provide encouragement and support to employees who are interested in going back to school or have already gone back? Detroit Reconnect can provide this service.
  • Host an on-site workshop or lunch and learn where employees can get help completing college applications or filling out the FAFSA. Local colleges are often able to send staff volunteers to help with these workshops. Detroit Drives Degrees can help make these connections.

Stage 6: Evaluating Impact And Success

  • Celebrate milestones for employees and make participants feel like your business values education and employee accomplishment. Announce graduations, completed courses, etc.
  • To plan for continuous improvement, look at some key metrics and track progress. Set a baseline that includes your data from before you launched or scaled your tuition assistance program, then use that baseline to track progress every year. Businesses should look at metrics that capture their own ROI but also metrics about effectiveness and benefits for employees.

Success indicators  and business ROI should include:

  • Percentage of employees who feel satisfied and/or engaged at work
  • Retention/turnover rate
  • Annual new hire training/onboarding costs
  • Annual recruitment costs
  • Cost of providing tuition assistance calculated against cost saved on recruiting/onboarding new staff

Evaluation and effectiveness metrics should include: 

  • Percentage of benefit utilization
  • Percentage of participating employees who go on to earn a degree or credential
  • Promotion/internal transfer rate for participating employees

A successful program is well-utilized by employees but also results in employer-led action, such as a wage increase or promotion. Studies show that offering tuition assistance programs has significant ROI, as tuition assistance programs lead to increased employee retention and mobility and decreased cost around recruiting, hiring, and training talent.

Marketing Your Program

Informational Materials For Employees

Consistent, up-front marketing is key to ensuring your tuition assistance program is utilized to its fullest potential. Below are template marketing materials to help spread the word about your tuition assistance program. You should include information such as who is eligible, what the application process is like, and additional supports that your business is offering, such as flexible scheduling to employees taking classes.

Sample Programs:  

Communicating The Benefits Of Postsecondary Education

Even if information about your tuition assistance program is readily available, some employees will be hesitant to seek out this opportunity if they lack confidence in the long-term economic payoff of their efforts. Below are materials outlining the benefits of postsecondary education.College Payoff Overlap Scaled

Supports To Help Employees Access Postsecondary Education

Detroit Reconnect offers personalized support and college advising services, including choosing the right school, career exploration, financial aid support, and connecting to community partners that support families.

External Marketing

In addition to spreading the word internally, external marketing for your program will help with talent attraction and public perception.

Michigan Reconnect

MIchigan ReconnectMichigan Reconnect has major cost-saving implications for employers.

In 2021, the State of Michigan launched Michigan Reconnect, a statewide scholarship program for adults over age 25 to attend their local community college tuition-free. Michigan Reconnect covers both associate degree programs and certificate programs.

Michigan Reconnect has major cost-saving implications for employers. Any worker who does not currently have an associate or bachelor’s degree can likely attend community college without the employee – or the employer – having to cover tuition costs. This means employers can allocate more funds toward bachelor’s degree programs and non-tuition expenses such as books, supplies, and required fees.

When factoring Michigan Reconnect into your education assistance program, there are a few things to consider:

  • While Michigan Reconnect covers tuition, there are a number of expenses that the scholarship doesn’t cover, such as books, technology, and things like child care and transportation. These should be factored into your education assistance budget, if possible.
  • Michigan Reconnect is a great pathway to a bachelor’s degree as well, and will also provide cost savings on that front. Reconnect recipients will have fewer credits outstanding toward a bachelor’s degree. Help employees navigate this process and determine the best education path for themselves, and for the needs of the company. The Chamber’s Detroit Reconnect program can help with this.
  • Michigan Reconnect also includes a Skills Scholarship program, which is the opportunity to apply for up to a $1,500 state scholarship to help cover part of the tuition cost at a private training school or program.

It’s important to make employees aware of this opportunity and the supports that come with it. The State of Michigan provides marketing and outreach material to share with employees, and the Chamber is also available to help with outreach and promotion strategies.

Tools And Templates

Work-Based Learning

Work-Based Learning

Rigorous, industry-aligned work-based learning experiences offered in high school and college are critical to help students develop technical skills and build relevance into learning. Work-based learning can be especially important to those low-income students, jobseekers, low-skilled incumbent workers, and opportunity youth who may otherwise lack access to the educational opportunities, professional networks, and social capital that play a key role in career success. Further, work-based learning can be an important strategy to increase student interest and understanding of particular career fields.

This area provides ideas for leveraging work-based programs to drive improved access to talent, greater employee engagement, and enhanced job performance. Moreover, this area provides resources for strengthening relationships with education partners that can help you provide meaningful and equitable opportunities for high school students, college students, or recent graduates.

Significant Progress

Developing K-12 and Higher Education Partnerships

Both high school and college students benefit from participating in work-based learning during the course of their education. From Career Technical Education programs and other exposure opportunities in high school and through internship and co-op programs in college, employers can build strong partnerships with the Region’s education providers to strengthen the talent pipeline.


Internships are such an integral part of a student’s learning, and an employer’s talent development, that we are providing additional resources and information about how to build and strengthen internship programs in partnership with regional colleges and universities.


Apprenticeship opportunities are in high demand among students coming out of both high school and college. We have compiled resources to help employers develop robust, meaningful, and innovative apprenticeship programs.

On-the-job Training

On-the-job training, sometimes abbreviated as OJT, is a method of using real-life work experiences to teach employees how to perform a specific job within the workplace. OTJ is an effective method of training because it helps workers learn in an environment that is identical to what they will face in their day-to-day work.

Job Rotations

Job rotations are a professional development approach where employees learn how to perform adjacent roles through temporary “job swaps.” Typically, employees are shifted between two or more assignments often at regular intervals in order to expose them to a variety of roles within an organization. Not only do job rotations reduce the monotony of the job, but they also give workers wider experience that helps improve productivity, innovation, and career longevity.

Job Shadows

Job shadows are an effective way of helping employees and potential employees understand how various jobs are performed throughout a company. Job shadowing typically involves following an employee as they undertake the typical day-to-day responsibilities of their work. Observing employees in this way – asking questions and learning how to effectively perform a worker’s job functions – helps potential and incumbent workers map out their own career progression and thoughtfully plan various development that can help them as they work to secure future promotional opportunities.


Mentoring programs work to pair up inexperienced, primarily younger employees and students with more experienced professionals who can provide advice and support throughout the less experienced person’s career. These relationships typically last for months or even years and can be extraordinarily helpful as inexperienced workers navigate the early challenges they face in an unfamiliar and intimidating work environment.

Career Fairs

Career fairs – sometimes known as job fairs or career expos – are recruiting or career development events in which employers meet with potential employees to help promote available job openings and career paths. Often, companies offer job fairs for their own employees as a way of increasing the upward trajectory of their most capable employees. Other times, employers in a particular region or industry collaborate with a local high school, community college, or university to promote and explain current job openings, career benefits, and any relevant application processes.

K-12 and Higher Education Partnerships

Most companies that have invested in K-12 and higher education partnerships are focused on one or more of the following objectives:

  • Developing a more robust talent pipeline
  • Improving the performance or speed-to proficiency of new or existing employees
  • Improving employee engagement
  • Fostering improved community relations

Building an impactful partnership will depend on the extent to which a company can be clear about its goals. Programs that can help a company develop a robust pipeline of potential employees are often ill-suited to improving employee engagement or improving the performance of existing employees. Our recommendation is that you carefully think about your company’s objectives and tailor your partnership to narrowly address these objectives.

Once you have carefully defined your goals, it will be critically important to select a partner that understands and can commit itself to your goals. Invest in a robust partner-select process whereby you interview the key players and get to know what they hope to accomplish from the partnership. Look for institutions with strong partnership-oriented leaders and mechanisms to facilitate interactions between the two organizations. In particular, evaluate your potential partner’s perspective on the role of the business community in achieving their mission. Leaders that have invested time and energy familiarizing themselves with the needs of local businesses will be more likely to help you meet your objectives.

As you launch your partnership, begin by establishing low-risk, high-impact programs that are closely aligned with your objectives. This will help you validate your partnership and work out any problems before tackling more involved projects. For example, if you’re looking to build a more robust pipeline for entry-level job roles, start with a relatively straightforward and self-contained career fair during which you can build awareness and generate enthusiasm for your company. As the relationship matures and your ambitions grow, you can start to build more complex programs such as job shadows, internships, and apprenticeships.

Tools And Templates


Designing An Internship Program

Internships are a great way to invest in local talent, increase the number of young adults who stay in the region after they graduate, and build partnerships and relationships with our education institutions. Below we provide recommendations, resources, and best practices for developing meaningful, equitable internship opportunities.

Recommendations and Best Practices

Every employer has their own model and approach to internships, but Detroit Drives Degrees has some best practices and recommendations for employers looking to provide a meaningful, equitable experience for interns. Learn more about our recommendations here.

Providing Remote Internships

The onset of COVID-19 in early 2020 has resulted in a massive transition to remote work. This has led to some employers canceling internship opportunities. We highly encourage employers to move forward with providing internships in a remote setting, if at all possible. We have created a toolkit and compiled some resources to aid in this transition.


If a traditional internship is not possible, micro-internships provide opportunities for employers to seek out short-term, project-based work that gives students work experience and resume material. View a list of tools and resources for hosting micro-internships.

Tools and Templates


Apprenticeships are gaining currency in the U.S. economy as an increasing number of job roles require in-depth, structured training. An apprenticeship is simply a way of combining paid on-the-job learning with formal classroom or online instruction, resulting in an industry-recognized credential. Apprenticeships help businesses train and certify workers for high-skilled positions while ensuring that workers have documented evidence of their capabilities.

Apprenticeships are particularly helpful as companies look to replace highly skilled retiring employees with candidates from an increasingly diverse pool of potential workers. Companies in growing industries such as health care, IT, and advanced manufacturing have found success with using apprenticeships to help meet their talent acquisition needs.

Effectively designed and administered apprenticeships deliver an entire range of concrete business benefits including:

  • Improved productivity – as new-hire “speed to proficiency” increases, employers have a higher percentage of fully-productive employees at any given time. Increases in productivity help employers execute more effectively and profitably.
  • Reduced defects – more effectively trained employees make fewer errors, reducing rework, customer complaints, and expensive compliance remediation.
  • Increased Innovation – as managers spend less time correcting operational errors resulting from low job competence, they can focus more on higher-value activities such as customer engagement, product development, and service excellence.

Additionally, creating a “registered apprenticeship” program with support and guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor (or one of the 25 state governments that have state-level registration programs) can facilitate the receipt of grants and financial support for the program administrators.

The registration process can be complex and time-consuming, so we recommend partnering with a national, regional, or state apprenticeship office, an apprenticeship intermediary, a workforce development board, or a standards recognition entity. You can learn more at

Tools And Templates:

On-the-Job Training

Providing robust on-the-job training can help new employees master complex job functions in highly technical job roles.  By relying on existing workers and real-life tools and equipment to onboard new employees, companies can increase the relevance, applicability, and effectiveness of training, while improving engagement and teamwork among existing employees.

OJT programs typically take place within the new employee’s normal job environment and can occur while the employee performs their actual work. The goal of OJT programs is to use the existing people, environment, and tools to train employees to do their jobs.

Coworkers selected to conduct or oversee on-the-job training programs can be chosen based on their job-role proficiency and leadership capabilities. This helps the company ensure that new employees are appropriately trained while identifying and recognizing potential leaders of the future.

Although the primary objective of OJT programs is to foster basic workplace skills, companies with strong OJT programs cite additional benefits such as the fostering of a positive workplace culture, high performance expectations, and team camaraderie.

Tools And Templates

Job Rotations

Job rotations, or moving employees between jobs at a company, are a highly effective method that employers can use when they want to provide meaningful development opportunities to their employees while building “bench strength” for future job openings. While there are an infinite number of ways that job rotations can be implemented, there are several characteristics of the most effective programs.

  • Bi-directional Benefits – both the employee and the sponsoring organization need to benefit from job rotations. Programs that skew too heavily toward the interests of employees will have few long-term sponsoring organizations or leaders; likewise, job rotation programs that skew too heavily towards the benefits of employers will have either few participants or high abandonment rates.
  • Outcome-oriented Design – the most effective job rotation programs are designed to achieve specific outcomes for both participants and the sponsoring organization. Prior to launching a job-rotation program, carefully document the desired outcomes for the participant and the company. Make sure that all parties fully understand these anticipated outcomes before you launch your program.
  • Measurable Objectives – participants and sponsors will fully commit to a job-rotation program only if they are able to see concrete and periodic evidence of success. Organizations with enduring and successful job-rotation programs usually have well-designed dashboards that help participating employees understand and appreciate their professional growth. Likewise, most enduring job rotations programs provide sponsoring leaders the success metrics that help advocate for ongoing leadership support.
  • Effective Resource Planning – as employees take on unfamiliar job responsibilities, they will likely need training resources, job aids, and coaching to succeed. Additional compensation is sometimes provided for employees that learn to perform more difficult or more specialized job functions. The more you can plan ahead and design the right support resources for participating employees, the more successful they will be.

Tools And Templates

Job Shadows

Job shadowing programs provide a structured approach for employees and potential employees that would benefit from observing an incumbent worker undertaking his or her day-to-day work responsibilities. Such programs can help younger, less experienced employees foster career aspirations and build tangible career plans. Depending on the length of the shadowing event, participants might even learn some critical job skills as part of the experience.

While job shadow programs can be established for both existing and potential employees, they are most effective when targeted towards individuals with little awareness of the job responsibilities and career opportunities within a particular line of work. Many companies partner with local high schools or community colleges to offer job shadowing programs as a way of building a more robust talent pipeline for entry-level jobs.

Companies with successful job shadowing programs help participants get the most out of the experience by thoroughly preparing participants for the experience. Often this is done by providing participants with a “pre-shadow information packet,” clearly conveying all the logistics and encouraging participants to think through the types of questions they’d like to ask.

Finally, companies that gain the most from their investment in these programs promptly follow up with participants to gather feedback and further cultivate any career interest that the experience might have sparked. This helps ensure that potential employees are ready, enthusiastic, and available should a suitable position open up.

Tools And Templates


Mentoring programs are designed to foster long-term relationships between a mentor and a mentee. In the best situations, the mentor becomes a source of wisdom and support – a thought-partner for the most challenging situations. By contrast to a manager or a coach, a mentor is not someone who observes and advises a mentee on specific actions or behavioral changes in daily work. A mentor is more of a guide, a sounding-board, and an advocate.

While coaching is usually based on a relationship of a specific duration with a focus on a specific set of challenges, mentorships are longer-term relationships that offer support and guidance, often throughout the entirety of a mentee’s career.

The best mentorships grow and evolve over time, changing as the mentors’ and mentees’ needs change.

Mentorships are not “quick-fix” programs by any stretch of the imagination. Companies often create mentorships when they’re interested in building a talent pipeline for distant senior-level positions that are anticipated to become available in five to 10 years’ time.

In addition to internal mentorship programs, employers are encouraged to provide mentorship opportunities to high school or college students who are exploring career opportunities.

Tools And Templates

Career Fairs

Career fairs are a great way to build awareness and excitement about the career opportunities that exist in a company, industry, or even a particular geographical region. Career fairs are typically in-person events, but with the current COVID-19 pandemic, an increasing number of career fairs are being held online. The most successful career fairs – in person or virtual – have many or all of the following characteristics:

  • Differentiation – the best career fairs are differentiated to focus on a particular industry, location, or job type. The more you can differentiate your event, the easier it will be to market it towards the type of employees you’d like to hire.
  • Awareness – the more awareness you can generate, the better attended your career fair will be, and the better talent you’ll be able to hire. For internal career fairs, work every internal communication channel from department newsletters to company-wide town halls. For external career fairs, use relationships with partners such as local high schools, colleges, and industry associations to spread the word.
  • Candidate-oriented Focus – career fairs that focus on providing an exceptional candidate experience will generate more interest from the highest quality candidates. Make sure that you’re clearly articulating the “WIFM” (what’s in it for me) for candidates and that you promote a great candidate experience. This will help increase turnout and foster enthusiasm and interest among all the candidates who attend.
  • Long-term Orientation – at even the most successful career fairs, high quality candidates will be left without job offers. The most successful career fairs focus on collecting, digitizing, and storing resumes for future opportunities as they arise. Taking a long-term approach to identifying and keeping track of candidates that might be suitable for future opportunities can continue to pay off long after the career fair is over.

Learning Culture

Student working on computer

Financial barriers are just one reason adults choose not to pursue postsecondary education. Tuition assistance is an excellent first step, but employers should strive to create a culture of continuous learning and to be seen as education-friendly in every way possible. Below are some policies and practices that employers should adopt to create a culture of education and learning.

Increase Access to Education

It is important to make educational opportunities accessible, not just financially but logistically as well. Below are some things to consider:Job Seekers Stat

  • Bring more learning opportunities to your workplace. Whether this is done virtually or in person, many higher education institutions are willing to partner with employers to offer classes or trainings onsite. Learn more here.
  • Provide online opportunities that lead to a degree or credential through companies like Guild Education.
  • Allow for flexible scheduling for employees who are taking classes. Higher education providers have work to do when it comes to making their course offerings more adult-friendly and available outside of regular working hours, but the reality is many classes take place during a nine-to-five workday. Be flexible and supportive when it comes to scheduling for your employees who are taking classes.
  • Schedule regular “Lunch and Learn” sessions in which employees with expertise can share. Even better, engage your executives to host learning sessions in which they discuss how they see the business and the industry.

Promote Educational Opportunities

  • Publish a monthly online newsletter promoting upcoming learning opportunities.
  • Hold an “education fair” in which you invite local colleges to set up tables, hand out materials, and talk to prospective employees. The Learning and Development department can set up a table as well and promote the company’s education assistance program as well as internal development opportunities.
  • Add a section on the company’s internal website promoting upcoming training opportunities.
  • Have your senior leaders talk about educational opportunities at town hall and all-hands meetings.
  • Increase use of posters and digital signage in your company’s common areas.

Reward Educational Achievements

Research shows that even if an employer is willing to pay for an employee’s education, they will not be motivated to use this benefit unless they know it will result in a tangible employment outcome. There are things you can do to ensure your employees understand the benefits of furthering their education. Consider providing a title change, promotion, or raise when an employee completes an education milestone. Announce these milestones at staff meetings or on all-staff emails. Celebrate and encourage educational pursuits, both those that are directly related to an employee’s regular job duties and those that provide additional enrichment outside of the normal scope of work.

Additionally, consider the following:

  • Celebrate degree attainment by publicly congratulating employees who use the education assistance program to complete their degrees. This can be accomplished by email or a news item on the company’s intranet. Even better, consider regularly celebrate graduating employees at the quarterly company “town hall” or “all employee” meeting.
  • Help employees struggling with student debt. Many employers are showing that they value their employees’ education by providing student loan repayment opportunities, either as a signing bonus or as a monthly benefit. Even $100/month toward qualifying employees’ student loans shows an investment in education outcomes and increases employee morale and loyalty.
    • Companies offering a student loan repayment option include:
      • Aetna: for full-time employees, the company will match up to $2,000 per year with a $10,000 lifetime maximum. For part-time employees, the company will match up to $1,000 per year with a $5,000 lifetime maximum.
      • LiveNation: the company provides up to $100 per month, or $1,200 per year, with a lifetime maximum of $6,000.
      • Nvidia: recent graduates (within the last three years) can apply for reimbursement of $6,000 each year to help repay student loans, up to $30,000.
      • Staples: the company provides up to $100 per month for 36 months.
    • Businesses may also offer refinancing opportunities and repayment management support through companies like SAVI.

A Special Note on Advancing Equity Through Educational Attainment

Median Cost Turnover Michigan

Education outcomes – including wages – should be implemented with an equity lens in mind. Just like employers should analyze education attainment by race and ethnicity, they should do the same for jobs and wages. If the majority of Black and Latinx workers hold low-wage jobs at your company, think about ways to address this. Education and upskilling initiatives are a starting point, but this should also lead to action around wage equity more broadly.

This is not a social issue but a business imperative. Like education assistance programs support talent attraction and retention, so do strong diversity, equity, and inclusion outcomes. A survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of job site Glassdoor found that 76% of job seekers consider diversity an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers.

Tools And Templates:

Education and Talent

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