Linking Youth To Jobs | All In Nation•
Mark Edwards, Executive Director, Opportunity Nation
The central question of All-In Nation is the same one we at Opportunity Nation grapple with every day: How do we maintain our standing as a country of opportunity and upward mobility, ensuring that today’s and future generations of Americans have the tools and skills to succeed?
As a national, bipartisan, and multisector nonprofit dedicated to elevating this discussion, we believe it will take all of us, working together, to expand opportunity and jumpstart the American Dream.
We believe the key to our economic competitiveness and the health of our civic society is our children and young people. Today, our youth ages 16–24 urgently need and deserve programs and supports to help them embark on meaningful educational and career pathways that lead to good-paying jobs and a rewarding life. Economies have changed. No longer is a high school diploma or a strong work ethic enough to ensure economic success and stability.
As referenced in All-In Nation, the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforceestimates that by 2018, two-thirds of all jobs in the United States will require some postsecondary education. Yet 6.7 million of our young people today are not in school and not working. And millions more lack the skills and credentials they need to secure a middle-class life. The costs of this disconnection are steep, including $93 billion annually in lost revenues and increased social services.
The Opportunity Index, a unique tool that measures 16 indicators of economic, educational, and civic health and grades all states and 2,900 counties, finds that the number of youth not in school and not working is the most critical factor influencing a region’s Opportunity Score.
That’s why we developed our Shared Plan: Restoring Opportunity to Young Adults, which was launched at our national 2012 summit that featured Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts. The bipartisan plan reaches out to employers, giving them tools to help connect youth to mentors, internships, and jobs. It seeks to improve high school graduation rates, update career and technical education, and strengthen pathways to postsecondary education. It advocates college savings accounts for low-income children as a powerful step to ensuring they get to college. Like the authors ofAll-In Nation, Opportunity Nation’s coalition believes all young people can succeed if given the chance—and the necessary resources and supports.
Economic opportunity and social mobility have long defined America. But today, this ideal is at risk. Children born in other highly industrialized countries have a better chance of moving up the economic ladder than children in the United States. Today, your ZIP code too often determines your destiny.
We know that in a free society, some inequality is unavoidable. People differ in skills and ambition. But inequality without the chance for mobility is economically inefficient and unjust. The circumstances of birth should not condemn anyone to an inescapable fate. When the American Dream is at risk for some, we all suffer.