News: EY is paying for its 312,000 staff to take an MBA in sustainability as part of wider efforts to help retain and attract staff
By Stephen Jones - EY, the global consultancy, is offering all of its 312,000 global staff the chance to earn an MBA degree in sustainability.
Although companies have long offered in-house degree programs, firms have placed increased emphasis on learning and education as a corporate perk since the onset of the pandemic, as a way of retaining employees, and mitigating skills shortages.
"We have learned over time that purpose is really important to attract people to the organization," Trent Henry, EY's global vice chair of talent, told Insider.
A global survey of EY staff showed that 74% of them wanted to participate in work activities that had a positive impact on communities and the environment.
EY designed the course in partnership with Hult Business School to help staff develop skills in areas focusing on climate change, sustainable finance, and impact entrepreneurship alongside their day job.
It's open to all EY workers, regardless of their tenure at the firm and is designed to be delivered virtually. If they want to complete it in one go, it'll take roughly 18 months. Staff can be "flexible" over how long it takes them, however.
The full MBA is accredited by Hult Business School but staffers are also able to earn badges in individual aspects of course if they don't want the full qualification.
It's the third such program that EY, which spends $500 million each year on learning, has announced with Hult. In 2020, the company unveiled a fully accredited Master of Business Administration MBA and a Masters in Business Analytics in 2021.
Companies are increasingly willing to take on more responsibility for developing their employees.
According to the recruitment company HireVue, which surveyed 1,600 UK companies, 45% of firms said they'd invested in learning and development in 2021 to help improve employee retention.
Alongside helping attract talent, Henry said the program was to help EY upskill its workforce and meet the demand of clients who increasingly demand consultants to have skills in sustainability. Skills he said, that don't exist broadly within the workforce.
There have been long-running concerns over a dearth of so-called green skills, in particular. Green skills are defined by the UN as the knowledge, abilities, values, and attitudes needed to live in, develop and support a sustainable and resource-efficient society.
In October, a report by a UK parliamentary committee said that the UK government could fall short of its target to reach net zero by 2030 without a detailed plan to address a lack of "green jobs."
The committee recommended that environmental sustainability should be taught in schools.
"Everybody is kind of facing this upskilling and rescaling challenge - you're basically hiring people to solve problems that don't yet exist using technology that's not available," Henry said.
"It's [in-house degree qualifications] actually a great democratization because it does make your background a little bit less important," he added.
There's evidence that candidates themselves are looking for roles and opportunities that offer them the chance to upskill.
James Reed, the chairman of recruitment firm Reed, previously told Insider that the pandemic had sparked "a free market in online learning." This was evident in the increase in applications to the company's online learning courses.