Re-conceiving Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility for Education

employees

(This contribution also appeared on CSRwire)

During their learning journey, individuals acquire knowledge and skills that ought to be relevant for their prospective employment. The provision of their education is the responsibility of national governments. Yet, business and industry seldom offer continuous professional development and training to their human resources that supplement formal education (although they are rarely involved in setting outcomes of curriculum programmes). Very often, companies have to respond to challenging issues such as skill mismatches where candidates lack certain competencies that may be too deep to bridge through corporate training courses. Perhaps, global businesses may compensate to a certain extent as they can shift their operations elsewhere to tap more qualified employees. However, the constraints on their growth can be halted by the broad impact of inadequate education and training in some industries or regions. Therefore, corporations may possibly become a key player in addressing unmet needs in education. Several companies have the resources and the political influence to help improve educational outcomes which will in turn help them to nurture local talent. Leading businesses are already devising Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility (CSR) programmes that are actively supporting education across many contexts:

For instance; Cisco (a provider of networking equipment), has created more than 10,000 networking academies in 165 countries. 4.75 million individuals have improved their employment prospects as they attended training to become network administrators. At the same time, these individuals have increased the demand for Cisco’s equipment. Similarly, SAP and Verizon have often partnered with local universities and education institutions in order to deliver courses, career coaching and customised degrees on site for employees. The companies have discovered that employees that pursue such programmes are more likely to remain loyal to their company. Naturally, it is in the interest of employees to attend educational programmes that may ultimately lead to their career progression and better prospects. Moreover, continuous professional development and training may considerably reduce high employee turnover. Interestingly, SAP employs people with autism in technology-focused roles. In doing so, SAP concentrates on these individuals’ unique strengths. This way, the company can gain access to a wider pool of untapped talent that will help to foster a climate of creativity and innovation. In a similar vein, Intel has also invested in training programmes and partnerships that strengthen education. The company has recognised that its business growth is constrained by a chronic shortage of talent in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) disciplines. Through programmes like Intel Math and Intel Teach, the global multinational has delivered instructional materials, online resources, and professional development tools for hundreds of thousands of educators across the United States. The students’ have acquired STEM and other 21st century skills, including critical thinking with data as well as scientific inquiry. This is a relevant example of a corporate business that has successfully addressed its workforce needs. Intel has recognised specific skill gaps in its central areas like technology and engineering. Accordingly, the company has committed itself for further investment in education. The company has created higher education curricula in demand areas like microelectronics, nanotechnology, security systems and entrepreneurship. Undoubtedly, Intel’s efforts affected millions of US students. At the same time, the company has increased its productivity and competitiveness. In addition, there are many big businesses that contribute in stewardship, charitable and philanthropic causes. In the past, the GE Foundation has supported systemic improvements in urban school districts that were close to GE’s business. These investments have surely helped to close the interplay between corporate sustainability and responsibility (CSR) and corporate philanthropy, while strengthening GE’s long-term talent pipeline.

In a nutshell, this contribution redefines the private sector’s role in the realms of education. It posits that there are win-win opportunities for companies and national governments as they cultivate human capital. Indeed, companies can create synergistic value for both business and society. In the main, such a strategic approach can result in new business models and cross-sector collaborations that will inevitably lead to operational efficiencies, cost savings and significant improvements to the firms’ bottom lines. Notwithstanding, the businesses’ involvement in setting curricula may also help to improve the effectiveness of education systems in many contexts. Businesses can become key stakeholders in this regard. Their CSR programmes can reconnect their economic success with societal progress.

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