Employment and Jobs

How Companies Transformed During 2020 and the Impact on Frontline Workers

March 23, 2021  • UpSkill America

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2020 was an unprecedented year of change, especially for how businesses operate and the way people live and work. Upskill America, an initiative of the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program, spent the last six months interviewing and surveying employers about how events in 2020 — the pandemic and heightened attention on systemic racism — are influencing:

  • The types of new skills needed by frontline workers
  • Employer-funded education and training programs and other workplace supports for frontline and entry-level workers
  • Strategies to enhance racial equity and inclusion in the workplace

“How Companies Transformed During 2020 and the Impact on Frontline Workers” summarizes the findings from our interviews and a January 2021 survey. 340 business leaders from a range of industries responded to the survey, sharing how the events of 2020 influenced their business operations and workforce practices. Learn more about our findings in this PowerPoint deck and our related public event, “How 2020 Accelerated Digital Transformation at Companies and What That Means for Frontline Workers,” where select business leaders share information about their education and training strategies.

We are grateful to Strada Education Network and Walmart.org for their support for this study. We also thank Training Industry, Inc., for their partnership and collaboration with the survey.


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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.

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