Tuesday, January 14, 2020

the Future of Work

A four-year college degree is not the only path to a well-paying job. This outdated thinking is partially to blame for holding back America’s growth and blocking many people’s access to opportunity. We must consider more inclusive means of preparing the best and most talented people to meet the needs of our rapidly changing economy.

The reality is - the future of work is about skills, not degrees. We should continue to value college and advanced degrees - there’s no question of their relevance - but the talent that fuels the U.S. and global economy is increasingly diverse and includes people who do not have a four-year college education. As technology changes the way we work, we must be better at providing pathways to good jobs that everyone - no matter their zip code or background - can access.

To start, this is only possible if businesses and educators work together, partnering to develop curriculums and apprenticeships that offer students on-the-job experience and training. In the D.C., area, this approach has taken root. Employers are working alongside high schools, community colleges, and universities to prepare students to fill well-paying technology jobs including 30,000 open cybersecurity jobs in Northern Virginia alone.

Community colleges, which are an affordable and attainable option, exist in nearly every community, educate 13 million diverse students a year, and are often overlooked as a source of talent. Most U.S. jobs posted do not require a bachelor’s degree. Community colleges are increasingly valuable resources for many employers, from technology to advanced manufacturing and health care. In the next decade, we must eliminate the stigma of community college.

And with about 7 million job openings and 6 million unemployed workers in the U.S., people with criminal backgrounds deserve the same opportunity to obtain in-demand skills and good jobs as anyone else. Returning citizens deserve a chance to secure a good job at most any company. Where possible, we must eliminate barriers to their return to successful employment too, by increasing access to Pell Grants and financial aid, and deemphasizing the stigma of questions about criminal backgrounds on job applications. Hiring them and developing their skills is good for business and the right thing to do.

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