As tech displaces retail workers, higher ed has a role to play in retraining
- Technology shifts are leading to a lot of store closures and, thus, displaced retail workers, but NPR reports the sector is lagging behind other industries in its efforts to retrain these workers for other jobs.
- The National Retail Federation says it is launching a new retraining and certificate program next month, but some point to failed similar efforts a decade ago in renewed skepticism.
- Wal-Mart is reportedly looking to partner with other major retailers to develop industry-wide standards for retraining individuals, but some experts say retail workers often lack the strong attachment to the industry because of low wages associated with the limited skill set jobs.
There is an opportunity for higher ed to partner with the retail industry to help retrain the workforce. Partnerships such as the one between Starbucks and Arizona State University, which allow employees to work full- or part-time while earning a highly subsidized college degree, serve as a model for how major companies can work directly with colleges to help uplift the workforce. This way, the individual earns a credential that will enable career mobility, the company has a greater pool of trained individuals who can occupy the higher grade positions technology is not phasing out, and the local economy is elevated.
In general, if higher education is to remain relevant, the industry will need to continue to look for new ways to provide continued training to an ever-evolving workforce, but this means the business model must evolve as well. Clearer pathways to degree, online delivery and stackable credentials can't be just the latest buzzwords; they have to be a reality on every campus across the country.
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