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Quality Education Means Sustainable Career Development for All

Image of the flags outside of the UN building.

As I listened to the recent proceedings of the 78th General Assembly of the United Nations (UN), my mind obsessed over one question:

Why are we not focused entirely on building an education system that prepares students with the skills they need to solve the problems facing the world today and thrive in this modern economy?

Reflecting on my last 25 years of leadership in public service, I am reminded how far we are from reaching my personal vision for the UN’s goal for quality education, particularly within the United States. High quality education is more than basic reading and math literacy; it should enable the educated to achieve a meaningful career pursuit. To that end, I joined the Coalition of Career Development Center to help make career readiness the first priority of American education.

Our Coalition was established by industry leaders, who, like UN leaders, underscore the connections between quality education and inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all; sustainable industrialization and innovation; and reduction of inequalities. And now, along with our Coalition, more industry leaders are embracing their responsibility to support career pathways as a service to their customers, nearby residents, employers of their supply chain, and workers.

The revised position of The Business Roundtable on the Purpose of a Corporation (2019) asserted that “companies should serve not only their shareholders, but also deliver value to their customers, invest in employees, deal fairly with suppliers and support the communities in which they operate.” Such sentiment aligns with UN Secretary Guiterres’s statement, “It is high time to renew multilateral institutions based on 21st century economic and political realities – rooted in equity, solidarity and universality and anchored in the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law.”

During the proceedings, the need for multilateral reform, investment, and public policy to ensure career guidance for students and adults was underscored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in support of UN goals. Emphasis was also placed on how after the pandemic—and now more than ever—youth need guidance for the future. The education system was not designed to prepare students with the skills they need to solve today’s problems, and therefore requires renewal based on current realities, and so the system needs multilateral collaboration from the public and private sector.

We are working to support this collective action to leverage career readiness policy, such as the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), Higher Education Act, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and Perkins, to promote the much-needed multilateral reform. (For more on this, look for our forthcoming policy positions and the 2023 Condition for Career Readiness Report.)

Imagine if, with the support of the private sector, every student and worker were liberated to develop skills that would enable them to enter into a career pathway that was personally meaningful to them. Imagine if education was designed for students to solve problems the way professionals do. Might they form the solutions to achieve all the UN’s goals?

We must work together to solidify new, multilateral partnerships that benefit all. Join us at the Coalition for Career Development Center as we engage education, industry, government, individuals and communities in our movement for sustainable development to help all learners become career and future ready in the United States—and throughout the world.

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