How Business Can Help End Nation's Opportunity Gap
There is a litany of statistics that show our country is facing a sharp and growing divide between young people who have access to 21st century learning opportunities and those who do not. Dismal rates of high school learning engagement. Persistently high dropout rates among underserved youth. Inordinately skewed college completion rates that leave young people from poor families ill equipped to compete in today’s marketplace. And more than 5.6 million “opportunity youth” across the country who are disconnected from school, work and hope for the future.
Perhaps what is most surprising about this bleak data is how few people find it to be surprising.
They might not know the exact statistics or the full extent of the challenge. But whether they are among the 40% of employers who are unable to find skilled workers to fill jobs or ordinary people whose own young adult children are struggling to finish school and earn a living, people across the United States are highly aware that this opportunity gap is fueling an increase in income inequality that is deeply detrimental to our young people, our communities, our economy, and the very fabric of our society.
But there is hope to be found amidst these stark numbers. Organizations such as Fossil Foundation are partnering with LRNG to reverse this trend.
U.S. employers already spend $177 billion on formal training each year, and an additional $413 billion on informal on-the-job training, according to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. Providing much-needed workforce guidance and teaching workplace skills is not an unfamiliar role. But what has been missing to date is a way to help our nation’s employers connect the dots between the tremendous resources businesses have to offer and the young people who need a hand up to find alternative paths to success.
Last fall, during the launch of the LRNG movement, Connie joined Blair Taylor of Starbucks at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Connect the Dots conference to make the case for corporate participation in innovative education and workforce development solutions.
Today, Fossil Foundation and employees from Fossil Group are on a growing list of LRNG partners who are doing just that. Fossil employees are proud to provide direct support, design expertise and job shadowing opportunities to the LRNG movement. Along with fellow corporate partners Best Buy and Gap, Fossil is working with LRNG to create learning experiences that young people can access in 12 participating LRNG Cities as well as online through LRNG.org.
We invite your business to join the growing roster of LRNG partners who are developing the future workforce in their local communities and across the country. You can:
- Provide internships and job opportunities for LRNG youth
- Accept LRNG’s digital badges, which contain data about skills and proof-of-work
- Provide mentors for youth, either in person or online
- Work with LRNG team to co-design Playlists that connect passion to purpose by enabling young people to explore their interests and develop both hard and soft skills
- Work with your local LRNG City
There is a danger in the widespread awareness that young people today are facing unprecedented challenges. The sheer magnitude of the problem can lead to a social acceptance that “this is just the way things are.” We find that unacceptable. By harnessing the intellectual and technical capital of our corporate workplaces and joining forces with leaders across education, civic, and community sectors, corporations can create a brighter future for today’s underserved youth. And that, in turn, will create a better future for our youth, workplaces, our communities, and our nation.