Now that the election is over, we have an opportunity to come together as a country on an idea that is distinctly not political: getting Americans back to work. Above all else, I’m feeling optimistic that now, we can do it.
Part of my optimism stems from seeing the 80 CEOs who recently came together to urge Washington to do what is necessary to avoid the fiscal cliff. What’s to stop a similar group of business leaders from coming together to support solving another national crisis: the growing Opportunity Divide in this country?
Part of it is timing. Across the country, we are moving closer to broad recognition that growing inequality of income and, more importantly, of wealth, hurts everyone. The growing skills gap hurts our economy and demands an effort to rethink our approach to preparing young people to enter the workforce. At the same time, online courses like MOOCs are transforming higher education from the university model to an aggregate model, which has the potential to truly democratize education by making it affordable for all. Though the transition is just beginning and will surely involve some speed bumps, that’s something that no one has been able to do up to this point.
We have an opportunity to make sure that our practices and policies do not divide us into two Americas – one America where opportunity abounds and another one where it is nonexistent.
The only question is, what is the country that we want to build?
I am hopeful that we’ll build a country that sees the potential inherent in all of our young people, not just the ones born in the right zip codes or with the right amount of money in their parents’ bank accounts.
Imagine how things could be different if all young adults had affordable access to higher education after completing high school, and if hiring managers recognized their potential and the credentials from their online courses as legitimate preparation for entry-level jobs that would help them build careers. We know what young people can accomplish with that kind of opportunity, along with the right support, because we see them do it every day at Year Up, and it could power our economy and our country.
I’m thankful to work in an organization full of individuals who are fueled by the success and passion of these young people. I’m hopeful that, with this window of opportunity, we will build a country that sees their potential and makes sure they have the opportunity to realize it.