Leading American companies are making big investments in the people they employ through new and innovative learning opportunities. The need for these investments is clear at a time when education and skills needs are evolving for both employers and employees. Remaining competitive in the 21st century demands that companies create programs to broaden the skills of current employees, support the professional aspirations of people of all backgrounds and equip the next generation of workers with the knowledge and experience to excel in the jobs of the future.

At many companies these investments and initiatives begin with creating training opportunities for existing employees to expand their skills to take advantage of job opportunities in high-demand fields and occupations. The HearstEDGE (Employee Development, Growth and Education) platform gives Hearst workers access to more than 3,200 courses in topics ranging from career development to technical skills. And, Hearst Data University provides courses in data and analytics for Hearst Magazines employees across all job functions, from editorial to marketing and sales. The Bechtel University program offers accredited courses in-person and online, helping more than 7,500 workers earn or maintain professional certifications.

When Lee Griffin started as an overnight stocker at Walmart he was unaware of available paths to advancement. The Walmart Academy program quickly changed that. “It definitely opened my eyes up to wanting more,” Griffin said. “With the Walmart Academy, I feel like the sky’s the limit.” The program, which offers management training to equip associates for promotion, has conducted more than one million trainings through the Fall of 2019. At Walmart, this training opens doors to great promotion opportunities: 75 percent of salaried store management employees started as hourly workers.

Through its EssentialTECH initiative, S&P Global offers employees courses in critical areas like cloud computing and data science. To date, employees have completed 37,000 courses totaling nearly 18,000 hours of learning.

Wipro’s TReND.Nxt program ensures that Wipro’s technical workforce is multi-skilled and prepared to provide the most cutting-edge and advanced services to its customers. As of 2017, more than 32,500 of Wipro’s global workforce have expanded their skillsets by receiving training and certification in technologies of their business unit.

Internal training is just the beginning of company efforts to promote career growth for employees. State Farm’s Community College Tuition Program offers financial assistance to employees in its main operating locations, helping them earn degrees from partnering community colleges. Walmart offers an associate education benefit supporting employees seeking associate and bachelor’s degrees in supply chain, technology, health and wellness and business. The cost to each associate: only $1 per day.

Through its Learning Together program, Boeing has invested more than $1 billion in employees’ college tuition, books and fees. With this support, Marcus Cox, a Boeing tool designer, was able to earn his degree in electrical engineering from The Citadel. “This is the first time I’ve ever been a part of something this exciting and this amazing,” he said.

Similarly, Raytheon’s Relaunch Program provides an opportunity for experienced professionals returning to the workforce after taking a career break. This program provides multiple resources and opportunities that will assist participants in re-entering the workforce and re-engaging in their professional career paths. Meaningful and impactful assignments provide on-the-job skill sharpening and development, while professional development, mentorship and networking opportunities help propel performance to the next level.

Efforts to broaden the talent pool and open doors of opportunity also focus on military veterans and service members, who often encounter difficulty re-entering the civilian workforce at the conclusion of active service. When U.S. Army soldier Chris Greifenberger was forced to retire due to an injury, he wasn’t sure how to take the next step in his career. “I was suddenly faced with the challenge of finding work that fulfilled my desire to serve while being professionally rewarding,” he said. After beginning work as a law enforcement officer, he was connected with IBM’s Veterans Employment Initiative, which provides veterans training in essential data analytics skills, preparing them for high-demand jobs at IBM and elsewhere. Greifenberger used his training to launch a career as a law enforcement intelligence analyst with IBM—for him, “a dream job.”

Finally, leading companies are focused heavily on increasing diversity and inclusion throughout their operations, recognizing that a diverse and inclusive workforce opens doors of opportunity for both employees and employers.

Take AT&T, which partners with historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) to recruit a workforce that better reflects the diversity of its communities. In 2018, 62 percent of new AT&T hires were people of color.

At UPS Worldport in Louisville, the company’s Transitional Learning Center provides hands-on training and a pathway to UPS employment to those with disabilities. One program participant, who went on to become a UPS supervisor, said, “They’ve given all of these kids a chance to work and to feel accomplished, and everyone deserves that recognition.”

Walgreens’ Retail Employees with Disabilities Initiative (REDI) provides in-store training in basic retail skills, preparing program graduates to successfully work at Walgreens or in any retail environment.

Leading businesses understand the many benefits of building a workforce and a culture that reflects the customers and communities they serve. And, in the face of a changing economy and technological advancement, these companies are making the investments necessary to provide employees opportunities to gain new skills, grow personally and professionally and contribute to a more innovative future for their companies.