An almost ubiquitous statistic coming out of the World Economic Forum’s 2019 Future of Jobs report is that 54% of workers will need reskilling and/or upskilling by 2022 in order for them and their organizations to remain competitive in the quickly changing world of work. That’s over one billion people in need of training. How can employers provide this education to their employees in a way that’s cost-effective but enables them to be agile enough to respond to changes in the market?

Training Industry market data indicates that companies globally spent approximately $43.9 billion on tuition reimbursement or tuition assistance — essentially paying employees to enroll in higher education courses or degree programs. These programs enable workers to earn degrees that would otherwise be unaffordable and keep their skills up to date with ongoing education.

The Shifting Future of Work

“The needs of today’s corporations are changing faster than ever before,” says Rachel Carlson, co-founder and chief executive officer of Guild Education and an alumna of the Forbes 30 Under 30. Adapting, she adds, requires a “nimble” learning and development (L&D) team that “serve[s] the role of curator as much as creator and draw[s] on great content from other entities — like universities and industry associations.”

Guild recently closed a Series D funding round of $157 million, which valued the company at $1 billion and established Carlson as one of a handful of female founders whose companies reached unicorn status in 2019. Guild helps companies transform their tuition reimbursement programs “from a non-strategic cost center into a data-driven benefit and talent strategy,” according to its website.

The company focuses on “high-demand job titles,” Carlson says, “and skills needed for the future of work.” For instance, Guild worked with Chipotle to create a program called Cultivate Education, which offered custom education benefits programs including university programs and custom programs such as a bachelor’s degree in business with a concentration in restaurant management. Chipotle reports that employees who participate are more likely to stay at the company and even to be promoted within. Discover, meanwhile, provided programs in critical areas such as cybersecurity and computer engineering “to enhance critical thinking, analytical reasoning, problem solving and quantitative aptitude,” Carlson says.

“Ample Opportunity”

Guild will use the funding to expand its reach to “the 88 million Americans who need higher education to be prepared for the future of work and help them go to school debt-free through their employer,” Carlson says. “We see ample opportunity to invest and grow the business, including growing the Guild team, bringing on additional employer and university partners, exploring acquisition opportunities, and providing additional services like career support for our graduates.”

This ample opportunity extends to L&D professionals. If it’s true, as Carlson says, that “2019 put a spotlight on education as a corporate strategy creating a win-win solution for employees and employers,” training managers may find themselves in the position to shape company strategy in a newer, broader way. As we see the role of the L&D professional expand, there’s never been a better time to make an impact.

A Social Movement

Carlson believes that “we’re in the midst of social movement,” and more organizations will make education a corporate strategy this year “to enable working adults to advance their career and align to their talent strategies.”

As agility — organizational agility and individual learning agility — becomes increasingly important, the future of work will require employees who are skilled and ready to perform for their companies. Providing education as a benefit is a tool learning leaders should consider adding to their training toolbox.