‘This Way Up’ Summit on poverty and economic mobility•
Yesterday, Opportunity Nation joined ten organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable and American Enterprise Institute, in sponsoring Opportunity America’s This Way Up Summit on poverty and economic mobility. The Summit brought together policymakers, nonprofits and thought leaders to discuss the role that communities play in expanding opportunity.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan provided opening remarks and participated in a discussion with Wall Street Journal reporter Gerald Seib. Speaker Ryan touched on many of the recommendations in the Opportunity Nation policy plan, “Our Opportunity Nation,” including closing the skills gap and the importance of evidenced-based policy. When asked about the chances of movement on poverty-related issues in the next Congress, the Speaker committed to an aggressive timetable for 2017 and said that fighting poverty shouldn’t be seen as a partisan issue.
The Center For Employment Opportunities, an Opportunity Nation Coalition member, participated in a panel discussion on criminal justice reform. Executive Director Sam Schaeffer made the point that employment is more than a job; it is a way for an individual to feel reconnected to their community. As noted in our 2016 Opportunity Index, people are disconnected from one another, a point Sam made, and one that Speaker Ryan mentioned as he called for the need to seek policies that stop the stratification of our society.
Opportunity Nation Leadership Council member Dr. Eduardo Padrón, President of Miami Dade College, also participated in a discussion about making college work with Kevin James, Jain Family Institute; Andrew Kelly, University of North Carolina and Robert Mendenhall, Western Governors University.
Our goal from “Our Opportunity Nation” to double the number of post-secondary degrees, certificates and industry credentials by 2025 was especially relevant to a panel where business and higher education leaders also gathered to discuss the skills gap in the 21st century workforce. Employers like the Automotive Service Excellence, a certification and accreditation group, and Huntington Ingalls Industries, a shipbuilding company, have approached the skills gap by partnering with the education sector to create a pipeline from high schools to their companies. Their programs have seen tremendous success, and show the need for a cultural change where people can see that there are multiple pathways to career success, and not all of them require a Bachelor’s Degree to ensure a stable future.
We are looking forward to continuing these conversations and pushing for policy changes that will expand opportunity for children and families when the new Congress is sworn in on January 3.