How Clinton and Sanders Plan to Give Young Adults Access to Quality Jobs and Higher Education

On Wednesday night in Miami, Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders faced off in their last debate before Tuesday’s critical primary votes in delegate-rich states such as Florida, Ohio and Illinois. The two sparred over pressing issues ranging from comprehensive immigration reform to climate change. Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders also shed light on their plans to address two critical challenges facing young Americans today: access to quality jobs and affordable higher education.

The debate was held at Miami Dade College, which, as Clinton noted, is the largest institution of higher education in the country. The location was a fitting backdrop for the discussion, as Miami-Dade County is home to more than 50,000 of the nearly 6 million young adults nationwide who are out of school and without work. The next president will have the chance to enhance the economic prospects of these Opportunity Youth—while improving the economy’s overall vitality—by encouraging the creation of new employment pathways that take into account the unique skill sets and life experiences of these young adults.

So what, precisely, do the Democratic frontrunners propose to do?

Clinton promised to create “more jobs with higher incomes” and said that she wants to make sure that the zip code a person is born into isn’t a hindrance “on the ladder to the middle class.” On this topic, Clinton said “Jobs are the number one issue” and she noted that “close behind is education.”  Clinton outlined her plan to restructure student loan debt, including options for refinancing loans to lower interest rates, paying back debt as a percentage of total income, and eventually creating “debt-free tuition at public colleges and universities.” In her closing remarks, she reiterated her commitment to eliminating “all the barriers,” economic or educational, “that stand in the way of people living up to their own potential.”

For his part, Sanders pointed out the “real crisis” that unemployment and underemployment represent, especially for youth. For 17- to 20-year-old Latinos and African Americans who have earned a high school diploma, these rates are disproportionately high, at 36 percent and 51 percent, respectively, according to Sanders.

Sanders pledged to address rising income inequality by “invest[ing] in education and jobs.”  Taking aim at “outrageous levels of student debt,” the senator said that he wants to “make public colleges and universities tuition-free.”

The reality is that too many young people today are forced to choose between mortgaging their futures by taking on massive student loan debt, and subsisting in low-wage, unskilled jobs that offer little in the way of financial stability.

On the issue of jobs, Sanders reminded voters that he co-sponsored legislation to create a $5 billion jobs program. He also spelled out a plan to create 13 million jobs by rebuilding the nation’s “crumbling infrastructure.”

If brought to fruition, this proposal would increase the need to identify and cultivate nontraditional sources of talent. And if all 6 million of America’s Opportunity Youth suddenly could afford to attend college and earn a post-secondary credential, employers could fill their talent pipelines with a skilled, diverse and motivated workforce.

Regardless of the differences between their policy proposals, one thing is abundantly clear: both Clinton and Sanders recognize the need for affordable access to post-secondary institutions as part of a comprehensive approach to cultivating a more equal, economically productive society.

The GradsofLifeVoice Forbes team provides thought leadership, research and expert commentary on innovative talent pipelines and related issues such as the skills gap, income inequality, workforce diversity, and the business case for employment pathways. We seek to change employers’ perceptions of young adults with atypical resumes from social liabilities to economic assets. This post was originally featured here

Government/Policy, Income Inequality, Workforce Development,
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