Working Hand in Hand: Creating Jobs and Expanding Education
In her State of the City address, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn highlighted the role of education in ensuring the city's long-term economic growth:
"Creating more jobs isn't enough. We have to make sure that New Yorkers have the skills and education they need to get those jobs. We still have 1.6 million New Yorkers who are out of school and don't have a high school diploma - and they're more than twice likely to be unemployed as someone with a college degree."
Workforce development, along with education for New Yorkers from childhood to adulthood, will keep New York competitive in the marketplace.
The organization I work with, Welfare Rights Initiative (WRI), is a founding member of The Empire State Economic Security Campaign (ES2), a campaign that in part works toward better access to education. ES2 points out in its current policy position that in order to keep up with economic potential and harvest entrepreneurial energy we need to invest in a well trained and educated population.
A recent study found that New York ranks 43rd in the nation in the number of adults with high school who attained college. Less than 4% of NYS adults with high school diplomas are in college. In the ten years between 1995 and 2005 enrollment dropped by 20%.
Quinn's call to make sure New Yorkers have skills and education is exactly the right response. It shows leadership in envisioning policy for the future.
The city could start with a recent suggestion from the New York Times to open G.E.D. programs to families receiving welfare. The city also routinely fails to count education, training, work study, and internships as meeting welfare requirements, something the Speaker could work to remedy. In addition, city, state and federal legislators must work together to expand access to financial aid.
Coordination among leaders and constituents will allow more poor families move out of dire poverty through education and employment.