Some Massachusetts Institute of Technology MBA students were blown away by the stories they recently heard from graduates of a local community college:
One young graduate told how he dropped out of high school and drifted for a couple years before becoming an Army Ranger and then, with the help of the GI Bill, and good army counselors, got his “second chance” at school by enrolling in the community college. He graduated and is pursuing a four-year college degree.
Then there was the young immigrant who came to the U.S. expecting to find unlimited opportunity but instead could only find a job in a restaurant kitchen where he was constantly harassed and cheated out of his wages. But instead of retreating back home, he enrolled in the community college because “it was cheap” and available. Now he is also a successful graduate with marketable skills and able to continue his education in a four-year college.
Then one of the MBAs said she too had dropped out of high school to pursue her considerable talents as a musician. But when she lost interest in music as a career, a good community college and math teacher/mentor were her bridge to becoming a successful entrepreneur and eventually gaining entry into the MBA program.
These stories are not just nice anecdotes. They signal a critical path forward in addressing the jobs and skills, challenges and opportunities facing young people across the country today. While some of the directions that define this path have been well-documented, the actual route taken by four critical policy drivers — government, business, education, and labor — has been inadequate, uncoordinated, or both. Neither America’s young people nor its economy can any longer afford such failure.
Read the full post at Fortune.
Thomas Kochan is the George Maverick Bunker Professor of Management, a Professor of Work and Employment Research and Engineering Systems, and the Co-Director of the MIT Sloan Institute for Work and Employment Research at the MIT Sloan School of Management.