The Clinton Global Initiative held its annual “domestic focused” working conference, aptly named “CGI America”, earlier this month.  I was honored to represent The Saylor Foundation and join nearly 1,000 private, public, and non-profit thought leaders at the event in Chicago to commit to action to help tackle some of our country’s biggest challenges.  Of course, being a Foundation focused on improving access to education, the Saylor Foundation gravitated to making a commitment to action in the education space.  While there are several areas in education that need improvement, the Saylor Foundation was drawn to join the “Reconnecing Youth” working group at CGI.

The Reconnecting Youth working group discussed how to engage the six million young adults between ages 16 and 24 who are currently not enrolled in school or are unemployed – and do not have a college degree.  Beyond the need in this area, what struck me most about this group is the desire to reconnect and become productive.

A survey conducted by America’s Promise, a co-working group participant at CGI, shows that a significant majority of these young adults believes that getting a good education and securing a job is their responsibility and that their own efforts will play a huge role in whether they succeed in meeting either goal. Further, a significant majority of respondents also said that if the resources were available, they would participate in work skills and/or back to school classes to prepare for college or higher ed certificate programs. These two pieces of data demonstrate that when given tools, information, and support, these young adults can reconnect with an educational, occupational, or entrepreneurial pathway.

To that end, for our CGI committment to action (CTA), pledged to build a series of  job search and workforce skills courses to join our growing catalog of 200+ freely available courses.  The series will include, among other topics, courses on computer skills and literacy; time and stress management; interviewing skills and professional etiquette.  These courses are scheduled to start begin rolling out this fall and more will be added throughout 2013.  We hope that willing learners taking advantage of these resources will gain valuable knowledge and skills that will increase their marketability to employers and/or help reconnect them to their educational path.

While many organizations also made fantastic commitments in this area, a couple stood out that I’d like to share.  First is LearnUp, a “real-time job skills training program that connects job-seekers and employers.” The program launched to 100,00 students earlier this month with employers posting and/or endorsing job training content on the LearnUp platform.  The idea is for job-seekers to learn skills that employers want to see, allow those skills to be tracked on a “skills resume”, and view relevant job opportunities from employers looking for those skills. LearnUp succinctly sums up the challenge they are tackling. Currently there are approximately 25 million Americans who are unemployed or underemployed; yet more than half of U.S. employers report difficulty finding prospective employees with skill sets to match job openings. By teaming directly with employers to create and/or endorse learning content, LearnUp is working to mitigate that disconnect.  I can’t help to think that materials will fit right in with this initiative!

Similarly named, but not directly related, “YearUp” also is doing great things in providing avenues for disconnected youth to get back on track.  In 2011, YearUp committed to create a learning pathway for low-income young adults that closely links college and employment. Called the “Professional Training Corps” and modeled on the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), the program resides within Baltimore community college and helps students both earn an associate’s degree and gain significant, relevant work experience. Through this five-year commitment, Year Up will directly serve 300 young adults and develop a model capable of serving 100,000 students annually while also meeting student outcome targets and attaining long-term financial sustainability.  Returning to CGI again this year, they shared this great success story and pledged to do even more to by expanding to more community colleges, including a new relationship with Miami-Dade. Like the LearnUP committment, this too sounds like a great match with materials and a great opportunity for some young adults to get on an upward trajectory!

As noted above, CGI America 2012 yielded many more stellar commitments to action from inspiring individuals and institutions.  The Saylor Foundation is excited to have been included in this incredible gathering of “do-ers” and are anxious to see the progress that each of these organizations will make over the coming year.  We, of course, will keep you up-to-date on our progress with our own CTA here on the Saylor Journals.


Photo Credit: PAUL MORSE/ Clinton Global Initiative CGI America 2012 WJC PHOTO LINE