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For Economic Opportunity, Explore all Educational Opportunities

Jan 19, 2016

To tackle youth unemployment, students and their families need to know more about all educational opportunities, not just four-year universities and colleges, write Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, joining Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co., in a USA TODAY op-ed.

From "Four-year college isn't only path to career readiness":

Economists project that by 2020, more than 60% of jobs will require more than a high school diploma. However, only about half of those jobs will require a four-year degree — the other half will not.

Educators need to recognize that businesses have a high demand for skilled workers, whether they’re robotics technicians or licensed practical nurses, and better align what they teach with the skills employers desperately need. Likewise, business leaders need to support the education system as it strives to teach today’s skills and help students develop into critical thinkers and life-long learners. Many students who start on a technical training path will have opportunities to go on to earn four-year degrees in the years to come.

The column announces JPMorgan's launch of a multimillion dollar grant program in cooperation with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium. This "New Skills for Youth" program seeks to expand high-quality career-focused education programs that prepare students for successful careers. (More details from JPMorgan here; the CCSSO release is here, and the career education consortium also issued a release.)

Dimon is a member of Business Roundtable, and the Roundtable is working with the CCSSO and the education consortium, as well, on a variety of projects. Business Roundtable's focus goes beyond youth, starting with the youngest children just learning to read, to the K-12 students mastering facts and gaining knowledge, embracing improved college education, and all the way to the millions now on the job looking to better their prospects.

Dane Linn, BRT's vice president who works on all these issues, details the many efforts in a recent column in the Hechinger Report, "CEOs tackle skills gap in schools, workplaces and beyond." Business Roundtable supported a renewed Elementary and Secondary Education Act that returned K-12 education authority to the states while maintaining accountability; the challenge becomes making sure the law proves effective. CEOs are now calling for a modernized Higher Education Act and a Perkins Act that aligns career and technical education with employers' needs.

Along with the Business-Higher Education Forum, we’re bringing together leaders who can help transform undergraduate education in growing fields such as data analytics and cybersecurity. And the National Network of Business and Industry Associations, an innovative partnership between Business Roundtable and ACT Foundation, joins 25 organizations focused on better connecting learning and work.

Linn concludes: "Yes, the plate is full, but the work to close the skills gap is too important to delay. Just as the gap did not develop overnight, the solutions will take time to come to fruition."

As the "New Skills for Youth" program demonstrates, people are diligently pursuing those solutions and full intend to make them a reality.