Businesses need to invest in developing future talent


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Mike Foley, CEO of Zurich North America
Mike Foley, CEO of Zurich North America

Guest blog post by Mike Foley, CEO of Zurich North America

Developing human capital is one of the most critical needs for businesses, especially in a technologically driven era. However, over the past decade, businesses have reported a persistent gap between employees available and skills the company desires.

The 2015 Talent Shortage Survey, an annual study by workforce specialists ManPowerGroup, found 38 percent of employers are having difficulty filling jobs. In the U.S., the 2015 survey showed that a third of employers were struggling to fill key positions, with skilled workers in most demand; 48 percent of companies acknowledged that talent shortages had a significant impact on their business. Despite this challenge, a fifth of companies surveyed admitted they had no strategy to address skills shortages.

The skills gap has persisted despite a general rise in education. Census data for 2015 show that 88 percent of adults have at least graduated high school, 59 percent have completed some college or more, a third of adults have a bachelor’s degree, and 12 percent have a post-graduate degree. By comparison, in 1967, just 13 percent of adult men and 8 percent of women held a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Those figures suggest that there is a mismatch between education programs and the needs of business, but the reality is quite complex. Business requirements are evolving at an accelerating rate, as new technologies transform the way we work every day.

Traditional models of training are not necessarily best suited to preparing young people for this rapidly evolving environment in which skills must be continually refreshed and upgraded to remain relevant. It seems likely that in the future, businesses will need to play a greater role in addressing the skills challenge.

Recognizing this, some companies have created programs to develop skills for employees. For example, Zurich Insurance hosts an apprenticeship program in Switzerland, and has recently launched a U.S.-based program. The program is an adaptation from trade work, and it draws heavily on Switzerland’s educational model. Switzerland has the lowest youth unemployment rate among European countries, in part because two-thirds of their students receive vocational education and training through apprenticeship programs.

A misconception about the educational programs in Switzerland is that the government covers all costs. However, businesses in fact pay for 60 percent of the program because they believe that these programs will create a very high return on investment. These programs guarantee a well-trained worker when the program ends. The greatest effect of the program, though, is that it provides a steady stream of prepared workers – something that U.S. companies require.

With our adaption of the Swiss model here in the U.S., Zurich Insurance is helping ensure that we will have the personnel we need. By the year 2020, we aim to have 100 apprentices in our U.S. program. Zurich Insurance is working to inspire other companies to do the same, not just for their own benefit, but to positively impact the economy.

This article is provided for informational purposes only. Zurich is not providing legal advice and assumes no liability concerning the information set forth above.

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Last updated: 2016-08-11 16:37

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