In the United States right now, a child born into a family at the bottom of the economic ladder has less of a chance to rise to the top than a child born in other post-industrial nations like Canada and Great Britain. This lack of economic opportunity—particularly for people of color and low-income people—is driving the United States towards dangerous levels of inequality not seen since the Great Depression era. At the same time, our economy is undergoing rapid and substantial changes that will require additional training and government support for the workforce to adapt and flourish. These challenges will ultimately require several broad-based systemic reforms, including changing the nature of workforce training and education and substantially expanding apprenticeship programs, increasing the minimum wage and strengthening legal protections for workers, and reducing the costs of high education and better debt forgiveness programs for borrowers.
As a state embodying both the challenges and opportunities presented by this moment, New Jersey can lead the nation in adopting a lifelong learning model of apprenticeships that reignites economic opportunity and mobility for all residents. This holistic model of apprenticeship programs rooted in expanding equity and access to opportunity for women, people of color, people with disabilities, and low-income people through the “learn and earn” model of training, while supporting the growth of industries in the state, will position New Jersey as a leading state for opportunity. As this model is adopted by more states, the nation will come closer to embodying its promise of being the United States of opportunity—for all.