After the Great Recession in 2008, America slowly recovered from a high level of unemployment and businesses were moving toward booming once more. But despite an improving economy, median household income has barely budged since 1999, when it hit an average of $60,000. The median income from the 2017 U.S. Census was reported at $61,372. That's a gain of $1,372, or 2.29% over 18 years. This incremental wage growth is unable to sustain the ideals behind the American Dream: meaningful work and economic advancement opportunities for all.

The increasing skills gap in the United States is partly to blame. The disparity between available middle skilled positions and those with the training to fill them leaves both employers and workers at a loss. The growing number of vacant roles is negatively impacting employers' bottom lines while workers are stuck in lower paying jobs without the funds to enter traditional college training. Even further, some fear that the persistent skills gap could be detrimental to the country's competitiveness in the global economy.

Addressing the middle skills deficit across a variety of industries including allied health, skilled trades, and technology is the first step toward preparing for the demands of a changing economy as these industries are being heavily impacted by automation. Disrupting the idea that career success can only be achieved through traditional higher education pathways is another. Penn Foster's mission is to create a national movement to democratize education and offer flexible, mobile training to workers across the country and is prepared to upskill over 200,000 students each year. Preparing American workers to meet the significant employment demand expected in the allied health and skilled trade fields will help move America beyond the status quo of the wage gap problem by ensuring alignment between jobs and skills.

The $1 Billion Wage Gain Challenge

JFF's mission is to create a world where everyone has equal opportunity for economic advancement. The $1 Billion Dollar Wage Gain Challenge is an attempt to address wage stagnation by finding innovative, effective, and promising ways to meaningfully increase the annual income of workers. The goal is to raise the wages of at least 100,000 workers by $10,000 by 2021.

Over 90 ideas were submitted to the challenge and thought leaders and industry experts chose 7 finalists. Penn Foster is one of them and we're proud to present our plan for meaningful wage gain at the ASU GSV Summit in April. The Summit, created in 2010 by Arizona State University and Global Silicon Valley, is an "industry catalyst for elevating dialogue and driving action around raising learning and career outcomes through scaled innovation."

Penn Foster plans to build on our current success as a leader in workforce training, upskilling workers and further building out our partner network to address critical skills shortages for employers across key industries while raising wages and job security for thousands of low wage workers. By building a network of employer partners across the country we can tackle the skills gap, accelerate meaningful wage gains, and provide a robust talent pool of trained workers for in-demand positions across a variety of industries.

Penn Foster has developed an ROI framework to help employers assess the impact of their training investments and measure employer KPIs and learner benefits. Foundational to the ROI framework is helping employers understand the interplay between program design and accessibility, and the levers that influence learner engagement across learner profiles. We believe that to maximize return for employers and deliver positive impact on learners, programs must be constructed to directly serve both the needs of the employer and learner, even if those needs are outside of traditional program design. Penn Foster is committed to working directly with employers to measure and improve results by directly attributing value to the investments and empowering organizations to define career ladders for employees.

As industry leaders and key stakeholders in the continued stability of the economy, we all play a part in developing and maintaining a scalable and durable system to increase the number of skilled workers in the United States while encouraging the wage gains necessary to long-term growth.

Penn Foster offers an array of digital and blended learner programs that attract, upskill, and retain workers in America's fastest-growing fields and professions. Contact us today for a complimentary ROI assessment and quantify the value of career training.

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