One particular theme in President Obama’s State of the Union address resonated for us at Growth & Justice. And we think it might have drawn the most bi-partisan applause from business owners, educators and philanthropic leaders.
As he described a vigorous new effort to address growing inequality, the President offered specific policy prescriptions to re-vitalize our workforce with new investments and reforms for America’s training programs, including more on-the-job training and apprenticeship programs that “connect more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled-jobs.”
Eliminating racial disparities in workforce readiness and ensuring that ALL our workforce has the skills it needs for today’s (and tomorrow’s) jobs is a crucial factor in reducing the inequality gap and broadening prosperity for all. Our latest “Workforce Equity for a Competitive Economy” policy brief confirms a shortage of credentials for the jobs of the future and we explain new models of building “career pathways’’ that connect ready-to-be-filled jobs with ready-to-work Minnesotans.
Another key point of emphatic agreement: the President called for expanded early-childhood education so that every child in this country can have access to the education they need to succeed. “Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education” the President said. And Minnesota was one of the states he was referring to when he said that, “30 states have raised pre-k funding on their own. They know we can’t wait.”
Indeed we did not wait for Congress to address this important issue. Growth & Justice, in partnership with the MinneMinds coalition, successfully fought for $46 million dollar investment in quality Pre-K scholarships for Minnesota’s most vulnerable children. We’ll be joining that coalition again in asking the Minnesota Legislature to move toward full funding for all kids who quality for this crucial early brain development.
The President touted many successes of the last year such as continued job growth and a booming stock market, and Minnesota’s performance on overall growth measures has been exceeding almost every other state, even as wide disparities persist for our communities of color and those with median incomes or below. Hopeful as ever, the President reminded us, “What I believe unites the people of this nation…is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all.” We share that simple and profound belief and contend that no principle is more American or more Minnesotan than this: truly equal opportunity.