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Where Talent Meets Career Opportunity

"There is an old African proverb: If you don't embrace the young in your village, they will return later to burn it down for its warmth."
It's no secret that finding skilled talent is getting harder. For decades, the labor pool had been more of a labor stream. It flowed in a predictable direction and employers knew where the best fishing spots were. Students graduated from high school, went to college, then were hooked by employers who gave them a job and, in many cases, a lifelong career. In this system, schools were responsible for educating and training. All businesses had to do was stand at their trusted fishing spot and catch whatever came by.
High employee turnover is a growing issue in a myriad of industries, from manufacturing to retail, and can cost a company over 30% of annual wages per vacant position. The Society for Human Resource Management estimates that it takes forty-two days, on average, to fill an open position and the cost-per-hire hovers around $4,129. Recruiting and retaining quality candidates is a priority for employers and, in order to find top talent that will offer a return on their investment, some are using a sense of exclusivity to cull the herd of applicants. However, in order to hire and keep employees who are passionate about what they do and who will grow with the company, transparency and inclusivity are a must. "Find a reason to hire a candidate," Marie Davis, Penn Foster's Director of National Employer Partnerships, says, "not a reason to turn them away."
It's no secret that the modern workforce is in flux. Advances in automation and technology continue to transform the American economy and with it, the skills required to secure meaningful work. Combined with a growing skills gap, the workforce landscape in the United States is changing at a rapid pace. The solution is complicated. It will require government reform and creating educational pathways that lead to a secure future, and will take the joined efforts of industry experts in education, training, and workforce development, in tandem with policy makers, to navigate the new skills economy. 
The concept that a four-year university degree is the only path that leads to meaningful, lucrative employment is outdated. In many ways, it's an ideal that can't keep pace with the swift technological advancement that is impacting employers and workers in a variety of industries. Employers struggle to find trained talent to fill skilled or middle-skilled roles. Workers, many of whom rely on steady employment and income, can't afford to take time from that work to learn in a classroom setting, let alone pay the exorbitant tuition of colleges and universities. And, if they do take that time, the degree earned doesn't necessarily provide them with the skills that employers look for, leaving many workers underemployed at best.
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.
On March 20, 2019, yet another successful class of Penn Foster graduates walked the stage to receive their high school diplomas at Red Rock Job Corps in Lopez, PA. These students worked tirelessly over the course of several months to finally realize their goal and take a meaningful step toward creating better lives for themselves.
When great minds work together they can unravel even the most complex problems. At SXSWEDU, a panel of experts looked at ways to close the skills gap for millions of middle-skills workers and students. Panel members included Penn Foster graduate Markcus Perez, Christine Mikulski of Guild Education, an organization that partners with Penn Foster, Erica Pandey of Axios, and Ivy Love of New America.
The labor force participation rate might seem like one of those statistics that's more interesting to governments than it is to business leaders. However, in a tight labor market, with an unemployment rate of just 4%, employers should be concerned to learn that there are millions of potential employees in the prime of their working life who don't have a job and aren't looking for one. What's worse, a disproportionate number of these people are middle skills workers.

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