Employment and Jobs

What we learned from employers in 2020 and hope to learn in 2021

January 11, 2021  • Jaime S. Fall & UpSkill America

For all its bad news and stress, 2020 was a year to reflect and learn—and at UpSkill America, we learned a great deal.

After COVID hit, our nation underwent a difficult reckoning on racial injustice and inequity brought about by the murder of George Floyd and other Black men and women. Shortly after, we began receiving calls from employers, education and training partners, and reporters asking how these double pandemics—as Clair Minson, Founder & Principal Consultant at Sandra Grace LLC, coined—were affecting companies’ upskilling plans.

With the support of the Strada Education Network and Walmart.org, our Economic Opportunities Program research team and I began working on a 12-month, three-phase study, to speak directly with employers to learn how the pandemic and heightened attention to racial inequities have influenced company employment plans for the months and years ahead.

This PowerPoint deck captures our key takeaways from an initial round of employer interviews. I highly recommend it, if you want to know more about employers’ experiences as they adapted and survived during the upheaval of 2020. Additionally, employers shared perspectives about skill needs and workforce practice changes that are likely to be with us into the foreseeable future. You’ll learn such things as:

  • The workforce skill needs that are increasingly important,
  • The ways in which these skill needs are influencing a range of employment practices, including education and training programs for frontline workers,
  • How the pandemic and heightened attention on racial inequities are influencing businesses’ workplace hiring practices as well as plans to support career advancement for frontline workers, and
  • The employee concerns (both personal and professional) that surfaced in 2020 and how businesses are supporting their employees.

Now, in phase two of the study, we are partnering with Training Industry, Inc. to conduct a survey to give us comprehensive data around the challenges and solutions employers raised during our interviews. If you work for a company with frontline and entry level workers in the U.S., we would greatly appreciate your help taking this survey on how 2020 shaped your work. We will share results of the survey and host a virtual public event where select business leaders will share information about their education and training strategies. We hope, through this important work, we can all have a better understanding of some of the long-term effects of the “double pandemics” of 2020 and how they will impact us in the years ahead.

Take the Pandemic Employment Research Survey

We look forward to sharing more of our learning with you this spring.

UpSkill America, an initiative of the Aspen Institute’s Economic Opportunity Program, encourages and helps employers to create, expand or improve their education, training and development practices so workers – particularly frontline and entry-level workers who are disproportionately women and people of color – can have access to opportunities to advance.

This piece originally appeared on LinkedIn.


Share the Survey

How have the events of 2020 shaped business practices? What new skills are needed? What #upskilling supports are available? What strategies can advance equity and inclusion? Share your insights with @upskillamerica and @TrainingIndustr.

The “dual pandemics” of #COVID19 and systemic racism have spurred many companies to find new and better ways to operate. How has your business changed over the past year? Share your experience with @upskillamerica and @TrainingIndustr.

2020 was a year to reflect and learn. How have your company’s #upskilling plans changed? @upskillamerica and @TrainingIndustr want to hear from employers on their evolution and adaptation amid the #pandemic and reckoning with racial injustice.

The #Pandemic Employment Research Survey by @upskillamerica and @TrainingIndustr is building comprehensive data on the challenges and solutions employers faced during this past year. Will you lend your insights to this important body of knowledge?

Employers, take the #Pandemic Employment Research Survey by @upskillamerica and @TrainingIndustr! Respondents will be invited to join a future public event to discuss findings with the authors and business representatives.


Join the upskilling movement

UpSkill America is an employer-led movement that promotes training and advancement practices to help workers progress in their careers and move into better-paying jobs. UpSkill America is an initiative of the Economic Opportunities Program.

The Economic Opportunities Program advances strategies, policies, and ideas to help low- and moderate-income people thrive in a changing economy. Follow us on social media and join our mailing list to stay up-to-date on publications, blog posts, events, and other announcements.