Five companies investing in upskilling the workforce

April 21, 2022

The need to upskill and reskill the workforce is more urgent than ever. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, new technologies were transforming jobs and the skills needed to succeed in them. The World Economic Forum predicts that, by 2025, half of all employees around the world will need reskilling. Investing in upskilling not only benefits workers, but has the potential to boost global GDP by $6.5 trillion, creating new jobs and helping to develop more inclusive and sustainable world economies. 

Here are five companies with successful upskilling and reskilling programs:


Walmart, the largest private employer in the U.S., announced in 2021 that it would invest nearly $1 billion over the next five years to provide its employees with free access to higher education and skills training. Through its Live Better U (LBU) education program, the company will pay 100% of college tuition and book fees for all participating associates. LBU launched in 2018 with an initial $1 a day fee. Removing the cost barrier means that the company’s 1.6 million employees in the U.S. will have the opportunity to earn degrees and certificates to advance in their careers without the burden of education debt. The company also announced four new academic partners, including Johnson & Wales University, the University of Arizona, the University of Denver and Pathstream, which join existing partners to deliver programs tailored to adult and working learners. 


Skill Forward, Verizon’s upskilling program, provides free technical and soft skills training to prepare America’s workforce for technology careers. Developed in partnership with Generation USA, a non-profit working to transform education-to-employment systems, Verizon Skill Forward’s free, fully online programs offer practical, hands-on learning experiences. Participants can choose from a range of 10- to 15-week programs in roles such as: Cybersecurity Analyst; IT Support Specialist; Junior Web Developer; Junior Full Stack Java Developer; Junior Cloud Practitioner; and Digital Marketing Analyst. After completing the program, participants receive support in continuing their education or in finding full-time employment, internships, or apprenticeships. Verizon Skill Forward is part of the company’s $44 million commitment to training 500,000 workers for in-demand technology jobs by 2030.


McDonald’s Archways to Opportunity is a comprehensive education initiative with multiple programs designed to increase employees’ access to education and career opportunities. Participants have the opportunity to improve English language skills, earn a high school degree at no cost, pursue a college degree with the support of tuition assistance, and access free education and career advising services. Since launching in April 2015, the initiative has supported nearly 75,000 people and provided over $165 million in high school and college tuition assistance. McDonald’s other efforts to increase education access include the Hispanic American Commitment to Education Resources (HACER) national scholarship program; post-pandemic support programs for students enrolled at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HCBUs); online courses for young people to develop work-ready skills; and the Where You Want to Be Campaign, which connects employees with mentors in their chosen field.


Google has joined forces with Jobs of the Future (JFF), a nonprofit dedicated to transforming the American workforce and education systems, to train low-income adults and prepare the next generation for IT careers. Google’s IT Support Professional Certificate, an innovative program with interactive content, provides online training in basic and advanced IT concepts, including hands-on projects, and access to career services. With Google’s support, JFF has integrated the certificate program into leading community colleges in the Appalachian region and 20 states. Through its $100M Google Career Certificates Fund, Google is also supporting nonprofits Social Finance, Merit America, and Year Up in upskilling more than 20,000 American workers to create a more equitable and inclusive job market. Both efforts are part of the company’s Grow with Google initiative, which gives people training, resources, and tools to grow the skills they need to find jobs. Another Grow with Google program developed in partnership with non-profits The Last Mile, Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), Defy Ventures, Fortune Society, and The Ladies of Hope Ministries provides digital skills and jobs training for formerly incarcerated individuals.

Marriott International

Consistently ranked as the best employer in the Asia Pacific region, Marriott International offers two employee development programs. The Global Voyage Leadership Development program prepares recent university graduates to be future leaders within the organization. The 12- to 18-month, award-winning program provides hands-on and virtual training in disciplines such as accounting and finance, culinary, engineering, event management, food and beverage, human resources, revenue management, and rooms operations. For aspiring managers, the Marriott Development Academy offers a self-paced, blended learning option that allows participants to take charge of their career development. Within the Australian market alone, these programs have helped to fill over 55% of leadership positions with internal candidates. 

Workforce upskilling calls for a collaborative response from both governmental and non-governmental organizations. The success of these five companies’ programs highlights the vital role of businesses in addressing this challenge. 

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