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The Penn Foster Blog

Where Talent Meets Career Opportunity

The concept that a four-year university degree is the only path that leads to meaningful, lucrative employment is outdated.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.
When engaged stakeholders gather to discuss the future of teaching and learning, Penn Foster is naturally right in the middle of things. We'll be sharing what we know, learning from other industry leaders, and contributing to two programs at this year's SXSW EDU conference in Austin, TX.
Detroit is a resilient city in the process of rebuilding a robust economic future. The path to great progress is only temporarily gated by the challenge that many workers face when seeking out the skills and education they need to thrive. Fortunately, some visionary companies have partnered with Penn Foster to create a path for these workers.
You've heard that the biggest enemies of the skilled worker in the last two decades have been automation and the constantly improving technologies that will make human work obsolete. If a machine can complete a task more efficiently at less cost, it makes sense to invest in cutting edge technology over upskilling workers. Conventional wisdom has us fearing a fully automated workforce because it means the eradication of middle-skilled jobs in almost every industry. Before completely investing in an automated future over developing workers' skills, consider this often overlooked, contrarian point of view: the impact of automation on the workforce will be incremental and, in fact, positive.
The retail sector is under siege. Ecommerce is invading the retail space and not even industry giants are immune to their attacks. Consider the fall of Sears and Toys R Us. While retailers can't prevent the rise of ecommerce, there is one threat they can control, employee churn.

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