Tyler Suiters  0:12 

Hey, everybody. With the Consumer Technology Association, I'm Tyler Suiters. We own and we produce CES, the most influential tech event on the planet. We want you to be CES ready, we're here to help. The show is coming up January 8-11 in Las Vegas, 2019. And today we're talking about a term called the future of work. Maybe familiar to you, and if not, a little bit of background. This is the second year, here at CTA, we have fielded our future of work survey, looking to the expectations of companies about the workers they will need, the skills they'll need in the century ahead. And in this survey, nine out of 10 small businesses say they have a growing need for skilled tech workers. That's all that's a growing percentage. On the other hand, just about three quarters of those businesses say it's going to be hard for them to find candidates with the right skills. So I am thrilled to have an expert with me co-hosting our tech talk podcast today. Jennifer Taylor is vice president of U.S. jobs here at CTA. Jen, I'm glad you're with us.

Jennifer Taylor  1:20 

I'm so glad to be here, too, Tyler, thanks.

Tyler Suiters  1:22 

Sure. you're doing all the heavy lifting. This is your area of expertise. So I threw out the phrase future of work. It's something we use virtually every day here in the tech sector. But for those who may not have heard it, or may not understand it fully what what's your elevator pitch on it?

Jennifer Taylor  1:38 

Sure. Well, future of work comes down to a few things. Our nation right now is really experiencing a critical skills gap. And I'll describe that for you. We've got 6.7 million open jobs in America. But we've got 6 million people still looking for work. And so really the key issue here is that many of these workers don't have the high skills needed to fill those jobs. And as technology continues to advance and emerge, and we're seeing robotics and AI and AR and VR, and more need for software engineers and cyber security experts, as that technology explodes, it unleashes new jobs. And so as it relates to future of work, it is absolutely critical right now that our schools, our employers, our families, and individuals take ownership, and focus on lifelong learning and make sure that they are staying on top of the skills that they need, that are in high demand in the workplace.

Tyler Suiters  2:55 

And we're embracing it not just here at CTA, but CES 2019 has a distinct focus on the future of work. We have an entire conference track that you've helped build out.

Jennifer Taylor  3:04 

Yes, we absolutely do. So when you come to CES 2019, not only are you going to see all of this amazing new technology, you're going to see self-driving vehicles, you're going to see a whole area on smart cities, robotics, AI in action. When, as I said earlier, when you see all this new technology being unveiled, it unleashes just thousands, 10s of thousands of jobs. And so it's super exciting. But it comes with a challenge. And that is that many of our member companies, as we've seen in our research, need more skilled workers. So we're going to be hosting a conference that is dedicated to future of work. And some of the things that you're going to hear are how our member companies are taking the bull by the horns. And they are investing, not only in upscaling and re-skilling their current workers, because human capital is so valuable today. They're also focusing on creating apprenticeships and train to hire programs for those who are emerging into the workforce. They're not requiring four-year degrees anymore. And then the other thing they're doing is they're getting really involved in the K- 12 area to encourage people to embrace stem and critical thinking and really encourage our youth, both boys and girls, to have an interest in tech skills so that they can be part of this amazing growth that we're seeing in our country.

Tyler Suiters  4:41 

Well, thank you, Jen for the textbook segue back to me because today we are talking to two globally known companies. I bet you've used both of them, maybe even on a regular basis. One is a business sector leader almost synonymous with American business today. The other is a retail giant and that narrows down the field considerably as to whom that might be. But both of these companies are addressing the challenges of upscaling workers for 21st century jobs. First from IBM is Kelly Jordan, she is talent leader for new collar programs. Kelly, a pleasure to have you with us today.

Kelli Jordan  5:21 

Thank you.

Tyler Suiters  5:22 

And from Walmart, the director of global public policy Sean Thurman is joining us as well. Sean, thanks for taking the time.

Sean Thurman  5:31 

Thank you, glad to be here.

Tyler Suiters  5:32 

Open-ended question to both of you as we set the stage here: when, how, why did your respective companies develop such a focus on upscaling workers for the 21st century and what tech is bringing us? And Kelly, let's start with you.

Kelli Jordan  5:50 

IBM has always been focused on re skilling and lifelong learning. But just about two years ago, we really started to focus on what we called New collar jobs. New collar was a term that was coined by our CEO Ginni Rometty. And it really refers to employees that don't have a traditional bachelor's or four-year degree. And this has become increasingly important for us because there are over 500,000 open tech jobs out there today. And traditional school programs, traditional educational programs, are only graduating about 10% of the students we need to fill those. So we have a massive gap in our supply that is needed to meet the demand. So we really wanted to start focusing on nontraditional pipelines of candidates, candidates that have skills that we prioritize, rather than just a traditional educational pedigree.

Tyler Suiters  6:46 

Scott, what about you as a global company with so many entities across the world? Again, how, why, when did you all start your approach at Walmart?

Sean Thurman  6:56 

Well, we've been on this journey for a while now. This is the pivotal time in retail as everyone's experiencing as a customer or as someone who's involved directly in the industry. Our customers are shopping differently, looking for that blend of in store experience and online experience. They still want to save money, but they increasingly want to save time as well. And that includes and involves new technology and new operations going on in our stores and in our online operations. So we want to make sure that we're empowering our associates to keep up with that change through training and technology at every level of the business. You know, everyone's talking a lot about the future of work right now. And indeed, there are going to be  technological changes that are going to transform Walmart's workforce, they're going to transform the workforce in general. But our associates are a competitive advantage for us. At 1.4 million workers in the United States alone, they are what's driving our success in the retail industry. And that's not going to change. So we're committed to investing in them accordingly.

Jennifer Taylor  8:07 

Thank you, Sean and Kelly, for those great responses. Kelly, let's start with IBM. And let's dive into some of the things that your team is doing. Can you share some examples of what a new collar job is? I often get asked that question. And if you could explain what a new collar job means, that would be great.

Kelli Jordan  8:34 

Absolutely. So it's often very easy to think about new collar jobs as jobs that fall between what we might traditionally think of as blue collar, or white collar jobs. But it's really a vast majority of the jobs that are out there today. When you really look at the requirements, a lot of jobs in the technology industry in advanced manufacturing and other areas don't require that four-year degree, they really just require some level of skill.
So for us, what that means is these are roles in cyber security and cloud computing, cognitive business, digital design, all of these roles that we are continuing to pivot to as we reinvent and transform the industry and the world. These are roles that we're going to continue to hire and to grow as we commit to hire over 25,000 U.S. workers through 2020.

Jennifer Taylor  9:27 

Wow, that is a lot of workers. That's impressive. So what is an approach that IBM is taking to fill these new collar jobs? Are there nontraditional ways that IBM is using to bring workers into the IBM family?

Kelli Jordan  9:48 

There are. One of these is our P tech: our pathways and technology High School Program, which is an educational model that IBM helped pioneer. It's a 9 to 14 School model. And it really combines the best of high school, community college, career-oriented skills training, and professional mentoring. So over the course of that six year program, students will come in and earn both a high school diploma and an associate's degree free of cost. In the seven years that we've launched this program, P-TECH has expanded to more than 70 schools worldwide, serving 10s of thousands of students across more than eight states in the U.S. IBM is an industry partner on several of those schools. But there's more than 400 other industry partners as well that are investing their time and energies to help these students develop those skills. So for us, P-TECH serves as a great pipeline of talent into IBM's new collar jobs.

Kelli Jordan  10:46 

But one of the other programs that we've launched is our apprenticeship program. This is a new program that we started just about a year ago, October of 2017, which is an earn and learn model. So in the US, apprenticeships have very traditionally been in the trades and in blue collar roles. But we're contemporarizing that and really focusing on professional and technical roles to teach new skills for this new economy.

Kelli Jordan  11:15 

So apprentices come in, they go through a 12 to 18 month training program. And they're learning skills like software development, project management, mainframe administration, cyber security. They're paired with an IBM mentor, they work on actual projects, and they're completing on average about 200 hours of instruction during that apprenticeship period. They graduate with a certified apprentice certificate from the U.S. Department of Labor. They've got the skills to work at IBM or other tech companies. And we've been able to successfully grow this program from seven apprentices when we launched last October to almost 200 apprentices in the U.S. by the end of 2018. And we're planning to continue to rapidly scale that as a new pipeline of talent for us.

Jennifer Taylor  12:06 

Kelly, that is that is so impressive. And I applaud IBM for embracing apprenticeships as a newer way of filling your talent pipeline at IBM. That's really impressive. Let's talk to Sean a little bit about what Walmart is doing to address our nation's skills gap. Sean, can you share with me what are the jobs that are in high demand at Walmart? I mean, when people shop through the stores, they see the associates. And behind those brick and mortar stores are so many workers. Which ones are in high demand?

Sean Thurman  12:50 

The short answer is, a lot of them. And obviously our operations are vast. And there are a lot of people behind the scenes that you don't see in the store. From a skill standpoint, really across the board, regardless of what role you're taking with the company, we're looking for people who sort of have the growth mindset and learning mindset. People who can gain soft skills and pick those things up. Things like empathy, things obviously as central to the retail industry as customer service. Digital literacy is increasingly important.

Sean Thurman  13:34 

And we're looking for sort of the right attitude to join the company. But we're also looking to train for the skills that we're looking for as well. So, in addition to those, those basic competencies, people who can develop business acumen even in the store, looking at managing P&l, looking at ordering, beginning to develop that merchant mindset, really span the company.

Sean Thurman  14:05 

You know, there are many types of jobs in demand across the enterprise. A couple to flag, in addition to our store jobs, would be in trucking, where we're looking right now for 700 trucking roles to fill.

Jennifer Taylor  14:18 


Sean Thurman  14:19 

IT, logistics, all of those roles are obviously in high demand. Getting back to the store, though, most of those traditional roles that come to mind when you think of retail are still going to be there. They're going to involve new tasks, though. It's hard to predict exactly all the jobs that are going to be in high demand. But we have a few clues in the store. One example I like to point to is, a couple years ago, we weren't hiring new associates or training existing associates to be personal shoppers that support our online grocery operations, where you where you build your grocery list online. And you either go to the store to pick it up yourself, or increasingly, we're setting up capabilities for people to have it delivered to them. That online grocery operation is new within the last two years, and it's exploding, very popular. And now, because of the popularity, we have 30,000 personal shoppers, Walmart associates working in that role across the country, and that number continues to grow. So that's a job that didn't even exist before. And it's one that we're continually adding to the store experience.

Jennifer Taylor  15:32 

Wow. That's incredible. Again, you know, with technology, jobs are unleashed. And we see it over and over again. So Sean, tell me a little bit about Walmart's newer college tuition benefit and why are you offering this to your associates?

Sean Thurman  15:51 

Yes, great. Yeah, Walmart, earlier this year, we launched a new education program. We did it in partnership with a company called Guild. They're a small startup education benefits platform based out of Denver. They're led by a brilliant team of education experts. And we launched this to enable our associates to pursue in-demand degrees as we see them, we know that we have a need for business and supply chain management degree holders. And so we wanted to make that opportunity available to our associates. So Walmart is going to cover the cost of tuition, books, and fees for associates if they agree to put a little bit of skin in the game themselves at $1 a day.

Jennifer Taylor  16:42 

Sean, that's really fantastic. And I am impressed with how Walmart and IBM are listening organizations. That just speaks volumes about your commitment, and how you value employees. And I commend you on that. Kelly, let me ask you a question about apprenticeships. Why are they good for business?

Kelli Jordan  17:07 

Apprenticeships are really helping businesses to get just a ready pipeline of skills, and in many cases, local to their communities. So for a company who is local to any area, they've got talent that they can tap into right there. And it's really creating talent that needs to be...sorry — it's really creating talent that is trained exactly to the needs of that particular company. So the skills that you prioritize, the programming languages that you might need to focus on, it helps a company to train new employees and exactly what they're looking for as they continue to build their careers.

Kelli Jordan  17:46 

It's also very cost effective for a lot of companies. Apprentices come in using trainee wage skills. So it can be a little bit of a cost savings there. And then depending on the type of apprenticeship a company offers, if they're doing registered apprenticeships with the U.S. Department of Labor, they may have access to different grant or funding opportunities to help offset the costs. But the other thing that we're really looking at as well is a lot of the data that exists around those long-term benefits, and one of them that is really important to us is that there is data that shows that apprentices really have increased employee retention as well. So it is an investment that will help to pay off in the long term for many companies.

Jennifer Taylor  18:31 

So Kelly, tell me where IBM is finding these apprentices? What approach are you taking to find them?

Kelli Jordan  18:39 

We are getting apprentices from all walks of life. We post all of our jobs online on our career site, so folks can go and check out those openings. But we also advertise our apprenticeship opportunities locally with some of our community college partners. We also work with different community-based organizations to find candidates that might be coming out of their training programs. We also really prioritize veteran recruitment and we participate in veteran transition summits and other ways to bring veteran talent into our company. We committed to hire 2000 veterans of the armed forces through 2020. And we are absolutely on target for that. And veterans have been a great pipeline of talent into our apprenticeship program.

Jennifer Taylor  19:25 

Kelly, thanks for sharing that. What I really like about IBM's approach to finding these future workers is that you're using untraditional ways to bringing individuals into the tech industry that may not otherwise have been. So I really commend you for your partnerships with community colleges and reaching into local communities to bring people into the tech sector. That's really impressive. Sean, I have a couple questions for you. Regarding the college tuition benefit, what has the employee response to this benefit been?

Sean Thurman  20:09 

In short, the response has been great and overwhelming. We've had 42,000 associates already engaged in the first steps of going through the process. And we've had more than 1,400 Associates already accepted into the dollar a day degree program and more being accepted every day. We've had nearly — this is equally as important because not everyone is ready to make that first step into college. So nearly 800 more have been accepted into college start courses, college onboarding courses, where you receive college credit for developing the skills that you'll need to succeed there. And more than 900 have been accepted into the high school equivalency program where they can earn their high school equivalency or their GED. That is a program that we offer at no charge to our associates and also their immediate families. So if you're not quite ready to take the step to pursue the dollar a day program, we're also making it available through our benefit process in our partnership with Guild to have associates get started wherever they find themselves.

Jennifer Taylor  21:26 

Fantastic. Sean, also, if you wouldn't mind telling me a little bit about the nearly $4 million grant that Walmart has made to create new innovative pathways for lifelong learning and training. I know you're working with three major organizations to bring this to life and would love to hear about that.

Sean Thurman  21:51 

Yeah, we're excited about this. This was just announced this week. Walmart and the Walmart foundation announced $4 million, nearly $4 million in grants to three organizations to create innovative pathways to lifelong learning and training. This is an ongoing part of our five-year $100 million retail opportunity initiative. This represents the point at which we've committed about 80% of that funding. So there will be more to come.

Sean Thurman  22:19 

With respect to these grants, they were awarded to the foundation for California Community Colleges, they will be launching an innovative Online Community College aimed at the needs of underserved adult learners. The grants also include funding to Code for America, we're going to help that organization explore the role of government technology systems and how they can improve access to quality jobs in a digital age.

Sean Thurman  22:49 

And then edX, we have supported the launch of what they're calling a micro bachelor's programs. That's a stackable series of courses that learners can take to acquire career relevant knowledge and gain those 21st century skills. The first pilot implementation of that program is going to be in California as well. So yeah, we're very excited to see where these things go. And it's a continuance in our investment not just in Walmart and in our associates, but also in the industry and adjacent service sectors, to boost skills development and make sure that people are really well situated to transition through the changes that we're going to see over the next few years.

Tyler Suiters  23:34 

You know, we've been so in depth about these impressive programs and the emphasis that the both of your companies are putting on this. What about some of the drivers? Sean, let's start with you. What are the technologies that you see as driving this new wave of new collar jobs we're going to see? You know, when we go to CES, one of the comments I heard most often is that, Wow, it looks like every single sector, almost every single company you know, is there. That's because every company has to be a tech company at some point.

Sean Thurman  24:11 

Yeah, absolutely. And it's no exception here at Walmart. You know, I touched on earlier sort of this omni channel approach to retail where you are putting your best into your physical store location experience, and also putting your very best into e commerce. And where the real magic is happening is where those two things blend together like the online grocery program. In terms of practical technology, we're already starting to deploy some of those things into stores. We have a shelf-scanning robot made by a company called Bossa Nova that is designed to speed up the process by which we go through the store manually right now and looking for holes on the shelves, misplaced items and try to get the store arranged in the proper way. And this allows us to do that. We've got lots of small technologies like that being implemented on a rolling basis.

Sean Thurman  25:10 

One of the other areas, though, where I'm excited to see technology take flight within the company is in the training programs that we were talking about. We have set up a series of training facilities around the country, which we're calling our academies program. It combines the classroom and real-world training experience designed to teach retail skills, leadership skills to our frontline supervisors all the way up.

Sean Thurman  25:39 

We have about 200 of these locations around the country with dedicated classroom facilities and they're all connected to high performing stores where a lot of this technology is being implemented. We trained more than 360,000 Associates through academies just this year. And when we talk about training, we're talking about two to six-week courses, where they're going through the training and skill development they need to move up to the next level within the within the store.

Sean Thurman  26:05 

We're already seen improve retention there. And again, as I mentioned, they're going to be earning college credit as they as they move through that academies coursework. But one of the things that's really interesting when you go into an academy, you see that on day one technology is an ever present aspect. There are there's no paper, there's no notes, there's no there's no PowerPoints, which is great.

Tyler Suiters  26:31 

Are you sure you're still doing business if there are no PowerPoints, Sean? Wow.

Sean Thurman  26:36 

Absolutely we are. But what they do get on day one is they're issued a handheld tablet. They go through training courses that are gamified and involve collaboration with the technology and with each other.

Tyler Suiters  26:52 

Yeah, Walmart is clearly a technology company along with its role as a major, major retail player. Kelly, I don't mean to put you on the spot because on one hand, IBM is so closely associated with the development and driving of AI that I would assume that's your answer to that question.
On the other hand, at CES 2019, your president and CEO, Ginni Rometty is going to talk about IBM's vision for implementing emerging and breakthrough technologies in the years ahead. So I guess you've got a small window, but I'll give you the mic and let you talk about the techs that you see driving workforce growth and development.

Kelli Jordan  27:36 

Well, as you mentioned, AI certainly is one of those technologies. It is underpinning so much of what we're doing and helping to reinvent new tools, new technologies. It's reinventing the way certain jobs are being done. But there's so many other technologies that we're using and that we're incorporating into our apprenticeship program as well. Blockchain is one of those and it's great to be I'm here with Walmart today, since we have established such a great blockchain partnership with regards to food safety. Banking is another industry that blockchain is touching. So there's so much applicability of different technologies sort of everywhere you look.

Kelli Jordan  28:14 

Data really underpins everything that we're doing in every single industry. So as we think about other skills that we look for, other areas that we're trying to train and educate on, data literacy, and data science are huge, cyber security and what we're doing to protect our business, our clients, our customers. I mentioned digital design earlier as well, and a real focus on the user experience, whether that's creating a product or creating a program, or just even what somebody experiences when they're visiting a particular company's website. So there's really different ways that you can look at everything that we're focused on. But we've really tried to build out pathways to teach new apprentices and IBM-ers all of these different skills.

Jennifer Taylor  29:05 

Thank you, Kelly, and Sean, so I really enjoyed having you here with us today on our podcast. And before we wrap up, let me just ask you both a question. What personally is your outlook on our nation's future workforce? And for people who are emerging into the workforce today? I mean, would you describe these as exciting times or challenging times for American workers?

Tyler Suiters  29:29 

Yeah, or both, right?

Kelli Jordan  29:32 

So I personally think that these are really exciting times, with just a lot of possibility. As I mentioned, technology is really continuing to change rapidly, but there's so many opportunities to learn new skills that have become so much more accessible to anyone, you know, the different MOOCs that are available, community colleges, boot camp opportunities, and different companies, including IBM, who are putting courses and learning out there accessible for anybody to learn a skill, to obtain a digital credential, to demonstrate that they're continuing to develop themselves. I think it's just a great time for anybody to be out there trying to learn new skills. And I think we're also seeing a big shift with companies thinking about how to make jobs more accessible. You know, companies like IBM who have gotten rid of those degree requirements, we're not the only ones that have done that. And it's creating new opportunities everywhere, and great ways of just making the tech industry a lot more inclusive to Americans across the country.

Tyler Suiters  30:38 

Sean? Challenging, exciting, or both, Sean?

Sean Thurman  30:42 

Yeah, I would echo that. I think while it's of course a challenging time, I think it's also an exciting time as well. I think for it to truly realize all of the aspirations that we've been talking about, I think we're all going to need to work very hard to position the workforce properly. And I think companies like IBM and Walmart are doing just that. Getting on to the first rung of the career ladder is obviously essential. But increasingly, we're all coming around to the fact that a career job training is going to be essential to this concept of lifelong learning. And the road ahead for all of us is going to challenge current education models, it's going to challenge workforce training models, it's going to require business to constantly take new approaches to skill building, just like just like we're doing.

Sean Thurman  31:33 

And at Walmart, we certainly want to position ourselves as leaders in all those conversations, but one company, one sector is not going to be able to do all this alone. So we're going to need to collaborate, we're going to need to partner and help prepare workers for the 21st century economy. I think it gets exciting if we're able to face the future of work using some basic principles, giving people a great start and giving them a ladder of opportunity.
I heard someone else here at Walmart refer to as the lattice of opportunity the other day. I think that's very appropriate: partnering with the workforce and make sure that we continue to help improve stability and mobility, and then finally, using technology and innovation in ways that empower the workforce and allow them to build the skills and intelligently spur job growth in our economy.

Jennifer Taylor  32:21 

Thank you both Kelly and Sean for joining our podcast today. It was really insightful for us to hear your company's perspectives on how you're addressing the skills gap. And I'm so looking forward to seeing both IBM and Walmart at CES 2019 this upcoming January. And thank you very much for joining us today.

Kelli Jordan  32:44 

Thank you for having me.

Sean Thurman  32:45 

Thanks for having me.

Tyler Suiters  32:48 

And that is a wrap for us as well. Hope you're feeling a lot more CES ready. Jen, you got me much more prepared for the future of work at CES 2019.

Jennifer Taylor  32:58 

Well, I'm happy to be here.

Tyler Suiters  33:00 

And we've got some, again, dedicated elements of CES that are all about future of work.

Jennifer Taylor  33:05 

We sure do. So first, please join us at CES 2019 and come to our Future of Work conference track. This is our first ever dedicated conference track to discussing issues as it relates to the future of work. And then also don't miss the CES opening keynote with IBM president and CEO Ginni Rometty.

Tyler Suiters  33:26 

Yeah, this is not her first rodeo on the CES keynote stage. She's a great speaker and will have some definitive insights about the future of work as well. All right, a few housekeeping details for you: subscribe to this podcast. That way you won't miss any of our episodes as you're getting yourself CES ready. As for the show, January 8-11, 2019, in Las Vegas. All the info you need is at CES.tech. None of this, of course, is possible without our producer Tina Anthony, our engineer John Lindsey. They don't have microphones, but you all get applause. You are the best in the business, as far as I'm concerned. All right, that's it for CES Tech Talk. I'm Tyler Suiters. Let's talk tech again soon.