Young Americans Represent Our Biggest Untapped Potential…The Clock Is Ticking For This Population•
Dan Bigman, Managing Editor, Business News
On March 26-28 Forbes will host its first Reinventing AmericaSummit in Chicago, Illinois (click for attendance details), a congress of more than 300 innovators, business leaders, growth-focused policy makers and academics who are helping usher in the next industrial revolution.
Leading up to the event, we’ve asked some of our participants to give us some quick insights into how they see economic conditions in the country–and their view on the future.
Next up is Mark Edwards, Executive Director of Opportunity Nation, a bipartisan, cross-sector national campaign made up of more than 250 non-profits, businesses, educational institutions, faith-based organizations, community organizations, and individuals all working together to expand economic opportunity and close the opportunity gap in America.
- On a scale of 1-5 how optimistic are you that the American economy has really turned a corner?
While it’s encouraging to see that unemployment is down nationwide, it remains stubbornly high for younger workers — 16 percent compared with 6.6 percent nationwide. Until we find and support ways to engage youth and help them get good jobs in growth industries, it will be hard for our economy to not only fully recover but to remain competitive.
- What’s your outlook for your industry/community for the next couple years? What makes you most excited? What are you pessimistic about?
The whole country is focused on the urgent need to expand opportunity to more Americans. While our political landscape remains divided, there is widespread acknowledgement that it will take all of us – public, private and nonprofit sectors – to achieve this goal. I am incredibly optimistic about what we can accomplish together. But we need our political leaders to move swiftly on major initiatives where there is some agreement, or we will lose this momentum.
- What overlooked trends do you see that hold promise for the overall economy and productivity? What, on the other hand, is being over-hyped?
Young Americans represent our biggest untapped potential. They are loyal, motivated and hard working, but they need a chance to gain valuable skills. The clock is ticking for this population, nearly 6 million of whom are currently not in school or working. We have to move fast to help them succeed in the global economy.
- If you were starting your career over right now what area of the economy/industry would you focus on? What holds the most promise for the coming decades?
I believe there is nothing more important than expanding opportunity to more Americans. Everyone benefits from increased economic and social mobility – our economy, our communities, our families. Access to education and job skills remain the most direct path to the American Dream. Innovations in career and technical education; internships and apprenticeships; and programs that help students complete and graduate from high school and go on to earn some from of post-secondary education will help get us there.
- If you could say one thing to President Obama right now about how best to foster growth in your industry or community, what would it be?
I think President Obama has a good grasp of the challenges facing our country and has good ideas about how to expand economic mobility and opportunity. But we need a relentless focus on ways to empower and support young people, and we need political leaders willing and able to work together. Without those two elements, we won’t get as far as we need to, or as quickly as young Americans need.