Recently, Scott Kirby, Chief Executive Officer of United Airlines and Business Roundtable Education and Workforce Chair joined Axios for a conversation on the future of the workforce. With skills-based hiring, new technologies and practices, including AI and hybrid workplaces transforming the nature of work, it is critical that businesses and policymakers collaborate to support workers, create opportunities and strengthen our economy and competitiveness.
United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby and Axios’ Nick Johnston (Photo credit: Eric Lee on behalf of Axios)
Kirby on workforce development being a critical priority for Business Roundtable:
- "If you ask, I think, almost any CEO at Business Roundtable or anywhere else, what’s their most valuable asset, their most important asset, they almost always say the people. … Having a workforce come in and make a difference from day one and really get behind the company and the culture, it really is mission number one. If you don’t do that, nothing else really matters.”
Kirby on building a resilient and effective workforce:
- “…You have to be creative. … You have to be innovative. You can’t do things the same way you did before. We have 9 million job openings in this country, a 3.5% unemployment rate, what worked in the past doesn’t work today. It’s simply not enough. Our employees care about a broader set of values that make a difference when they decide where to work. … You have to be creative and do different things.”
Kirby on public-private partnerships:
- “There’s a critical role for the government to play and I’ll say three things. One, we do need policy that helps companies, individuals to really train the workforce, build the workforce. Things like apprenticeship programs, internship programs are really important. BRT has a number of initiatives that we’re trying to do. … Number two. … we should expand short-term Pell Grants. [For certain jobs,] short-term Pell Grants are one of the best programs for training and developing the workforce. Giving people real skills to create jobs that are good for the economy and good for them as individuals. … But the third one is a longer-term issue, which we’re never going to be satisfied with our economy or our workforce unless we do it, which is we have to solve immigration.”
- “There’s a number of good workplace initiative programs that we’re [Business Roundtable] building as big companies that work together as organizations to build the template for what works. Once we have that template, it becomes easier to have government policy that gets behind supporting that template. … An example of one of the programs we’re trying to do at BRT is for cyber.”
Kirby on workforce programs at United:
- “Two of the programs we’re really, really proud of at United are Aviate and Calibrate. Aviate is program where people who have no experience flying airplanes can learn to fly. … They can go get trained to become an airline pilot. Then we have a career path for them. … We basically have a guaranteed career path to get them through to the United cockpit. … We have a similar program for mechanics that we call Calibrate. … They graduate from high school. … they get paid, they get on-the-job experience.”
To compete in the global economy, America needs to ensure that our workforce has skills and training for high demand jobs. Today, our country’s workforce development system is failing. Americans, especially those from underserved communities, are struggling to find the training they need, and employers are unable to fill the nearly 10 million open jobs across the U.S. economy. Failure to reform the system will put our country’s economic future at risk and further limit economic opportunity and mobility for America’s workers. Business Roundtable urges policymakers to fix the nation’s workforce development system to better prepare workers for in-demand careers and strengthen our economy and competitiveness.
For more on Business Roundtable’s Corporate Initiatives, click below:
- Apprenticeship Accelerator
- Multiple Pathways Initiative
- Second Chance Business Coalition
- Workforce Partnership Initiative
- Thurgood Marshall College Fund Partnership
Learn more about Business Roundtable's workforce priorities here.