Making Sure Hard Work Pays Off

Published jan. 30, 2014

“Michelle and I want every child to have the same chance this country gave us. But we know our opportunity agenda won’t be complete—and too many young people entering the workforce today will see the American Dream as an empty promise—unless we do more to make sure our economy honors the dignity of work, and hard work pays off for every single American.”

—President Barack Obama, 2014 State of the Union Address    

In this year’s State of the Union Address, the President touched on a number of Administration initiatives intended to help more Americans enter and succeed in today’s technology-driven workforce. Chief among them is “an across-the-board reform of America’s training programs,” to be led by Vice President Biden. The President’s goal is to ensure that all of these programs “have one mission; train Americans with the skills employers need, and match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now.” 

President Obama’s call to address our country’s growing “skills gap”—the imbalance between workers’ skills and open jobs—is both timely and urgent. The U.S. unemployment rate continues to stubbornly hover around 7% despite an estimated 4 million job openings; a recent IMF study suggests that fully one-third of the U.S. unemployment rate is due to this skills gap.  

Jobs for the Future is working on a number of fronts to help address this challenge. JFF was recently selected as one of the national partners for New Skills at Work, a global initiative of JPMorgan Chase designed to support demand-driven skills training.  To support effective planning, JFF will be leading efforts to identify and report on workforce readiness gaps in a number of U.S. metropolitan markets. Within several of these markets, JFF will also be working to design comprehensive regional education and training systems that clearly align postsecondary programs with in-demand jobs to give workers the skills needed by local employers.

Another JFF initiative, the Pathways to Prosperity State Network—a collaboration of nine states, JFF, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education—seeks to ensure that many more young people complete high school, attain a postsecondary credential with currency in the labor market, and get launched on a career while leaving open the prospect of further education. State and regional stakeholders from across education, business, and government lead the work in each Pathways state with the long-term goal of creating statewide systems of grades 9-14 career pathways.

We applaud the President’s commitment to ensuring that our country’s training programs effectively equip workers with the skills that can get them well-paying jobs and put them on the path to successful careers. Jobs for the Future stands ready to assist the Administration in this critical effort.