Worlwide, companies are increasingly embracing inclusive and diverse workplace development and workplace-based training as an integral part of their core business strategies. With globalization and digital transformation shaping today’s economy, fostering diversity at the workplace is not only a smart move but also essential for addressing persistent skills shortages and gaps – in this sense, it is or at least can be a business case (GIZ,2016, ILO-OECD, 2017; Cheshire, 2018). Evidence from research highlights the positive impact that diversity can have for businesses e.g., fostering an innovative learning environment and contributing to a positive reputation. Moreover, research indicates that diverse teams can increase productivity of a company by up to 35% due to a deeper understanding of customer needs that lead to better-designed solutions (ILO, 2022).
However, not only the business sector itself but also governments play a crucial role in driving change within the business sector e.g., by defining adequate regulations and providing incentives that encourage increased training and hiring of women and disadvantaged groups (ILO, forthcoming). In addition, associations and industry bodies are also contributing by taking initiatives that address structural skill shortages. Impressive examples for such initiatives are:
- BayWork (USA): By collaborating with community-based, social and training agencies, BayWork serves as coordinator for recruitment, training, and certification across multiple employers. This approach effectively meets the workforce needs of employers while also significantly diversifying their workforce. The emphasis on the „business case“ for a diverse workforce, rather than solely focusing on social benefits, contributes to its success (Curtis, 2021).
- Three ready-made garment associations (Bangladesh): Together with the government and disability organisations they built capacities of training provision in VET centres and companies and support workplace adjustments in companies, leading to new avenues for economic and social mobility of rural women, people from lower casts and for people with disabilities (ILO, 2012; ILO, 2017).
There are several international networks which promote GESI in businesses including the exchange platform Global Apprenticeship Network (GAN), International Organisation of Employers (IOE) and the UN Global Compact Initiative, that monitors specific targets set by the companies. A collection of good case practices for disability inclusion in companies can be found in the ILO Global Business and Disability Network. In addition, there is an increasing number of independent business initiatives. They foster GESI in VET as part of their global business expansion strategies aiming at meeting skills gaps in the countries where they set up offices. There are a number of companies especially in the IT, manufacturing and service industry which integrate people with autism by offering them apprenticeships and job placement (workology, 2016). Excellent case studies on such initiatives are available on International Organisation of Employers (IOE) and the UN Global Compact Initiative.