Supporting Economic Mobility

Published jul. 07, 2016

By Aric Thomas. Originally posted on High School Leadership.

Are we pushing students to graduation without the skills needed to allow for positive economic mobility?

Is the work being done by companies, community colleges, non-profit agencies, and high schools leading to more people earning credentials and training to allow for their earnings to be positively impacted?

Community colleges across the country are designing and supporting students in programs to prepare for jobs and careers with competitive wages. Non-profit agencies, like Goodwill Columbus, support economic mobility by providing training and skill development to those in need and are typically supported by federal and state grants. Companies in certain sectors are working with colleges and high schools to create partnerships to provide the specific training needed within their industry and ensuring jobs on the other end of the programs. Schools are designing pathways stating in 7th grade and students are put on a track to earn jobs and careers soon after graduation high school.

How do we provide an economic pull for students?

The work of the organizations mentioned above is designed to push students through school and provide a meaningful experience. However, the better way to get students through programs and support economic mobility is to pull them through. This is done by guaranteeing how paying jobs on the other end of programs. Nursing is a career where one can serve and give back, but it is also pulling students through programs because of the middle-class wages it offers.  Social work is equally as admirable but doesn't offer the pull a nursing program offers. To see this, look at the difficulty finding a school nurse versus an ER nurse. The hospital pays more, thus creating an economic pull. Can we encourage other business sectors to create this pull? We can and this is how we do it...

  1. Identify the skills needed to succeed in the company/sector. The default of many companies is to list a bachelor's degree as a qualification but without any specifics of how the bachelor's degree provides the assurances the skills have been obtained.
  2. Design high school curriculum and/or courses specific for these companies/sectors. It should include supports for students not making the cut. To ensure economic mobility, some students will need more interventions, encouragement, and multiple opportunities to succeed.
  3. Adapt programming as business needs change. The process must remain fluid and responsive or we will repeat our mistakes and students will lose out because they graduate with specific skills and no jobs because the market has changed.