Reskilling and retaining employees though free education benefits

A conversation with Rachel Carlson, CEO & co-founder, Guild Education

In this episode of Work in Progress, Rachel Carlson, CEO and co-founder of Guild Education, discusses how the company is working with employers to upskill and reskill America’s workforce, to the benefit of both the employers and employees.

“We’re focused on unlocking economic opportunity for America’s workforce, especially the frontline,” says Carlson. To do so, Guild Education creates partnerships between some of the nation’s largest employers and top learning institutions to offer customized company-provided education benefits that allow employees to pursue new skills, meaningful certifications, and even college degrees.

“What we know to be true is that there are 88 to 100 million Americans—depending on how you track the data—who need upskilling and reskilling,” explains Carlson. This upskilling is crucial in order for these workers “to have a really solid chance at staying relevant in the economy of the future, at having a family sustaining wage, at having a chance at the middle-class American Dream, and, fundamentally, ensuring that those people and their families have a chance to survive or ideally thrive in this economy of tomorrow that has already shown up here at our doorsteps.”

Walmart and Target are among the companies offering the upskilling and reskilling benefits to their employees for free through Guild. The educational institutions include what Carlson describes as “classic higher-ed organizations, innovative providers of English as a second language and high school completion, and certificates in cybersecurity…and jobs of the future.”

More than three million workers around the country have access to these benefits through the company’s partners. And Carlson says while Guild’s mission is first and foremost to help workers achieve their personal learning goals, there is a huge benefit to employers as well.

“We found a way to help employers see that when their employees are learning, when they’re in an education up-scaling program, not only are they recruiting and retaining at higher rates very significantly, but they’re also being promoted and diversifying the company’s workforce and helping the company build their talent brand,” she says.

Upskilling Without the Massive Debt

Carlson says an important part of the way their partner companies structure their benefits is that workers don’t have to pay for their education and then get their tuition reimbursed by their employer. “Tuition reimbursement is exactly as it sounds. Even if your company’s willing to pay and you get to avoid the crushing long-term student debt that Americans have accumulated, your company’s still asking you to take out short-term debt with tuition reimbursement. You are being asked to pay upfront, to wait all year until your company reimburses you for the cost. So, what you see is that 95% of workers just don’t use it.”

Robert Guise, pricing analyst, Waste Management (Photo: Robert Guise)

Robert Guise has worked at Waste Management in Illinois as a lead dispatcher/router for almost three years. He tells me in the podcast that he had applied for different positions within the company over the years and was told that he didn’t have all the necessary skills for those open roles. He says they were really upfront about what he needed to learn to move up in the company.

“I felt that that was given to me in a really honest way, but it had been a really big challenge to find a way to get those things myself,” explains Guise. “The main thing that had been stopping me prior to that is just having the time and being able to potentially incur whatever costs these sort of programs have.”

In April, Waste Management became one of the latest big companies offering education benefits to all its employees through Guild. Through that benefit, Guise was able to sign up for an online course, one that allowed him to learn on his own time, balancing his work life and family life.

“I recognized that there was a programming offer that filled something that I had been hoping to learn, which was a data query language called SQL, structured query language. It was something that I needed to learn so that I could get to that next level of my career. For it to be offered not only by the company, but at absolutely no cost to me, it was a no-brainer,” he says.

That upskilling got Guise what he wanted—a new, better-paying job within Waste Management. In October, he started his new position as a pricing analyst. “I needed to continue to grow my career, because I want to continue to be able to provide more for my family. So, it wasn’t ever anything that I was going to give up on, it just really made me get there a lot quicker.”

You can listen to the full interview with Rachel Carlson and more from Robert Guise here on this page, or download Work in Progress wherever you get your podcasts.

Episode 211: Rachel Carlson, CEO & Co-Founder, Guild Education
Host & Executive Producer: Ramona Schindelheim, Editor-in-Chief, WorkingNation
Producer: Larry Buhl
Executive Producers: Joan Lynch and Melissa Panzer
Music: Composed by Lee Rosevere and licensed under CC by 4.0.

Download the transcript for this podcast here.
You can check out all the other podcasts at this link: Work in Progress podcasts