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Goodwill Supports Investing In An Education

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Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. One of the reasons I like it so much is because of football season. I used to play football before I started losing my eyesight. In fact, I was the only 5th grade starter on my 5th and 6th grade team, which was great. Eventually I got benched, which wasn't so great.

That night my dad told me something I'll never forget. He said that he didn't know whether my vision would stay the way it was or continue to get worse. But he told me that, either way, I was going to need to work harder and smarter than other people just to keep up.

That's a message that I often repeat to people when I talk about overcoming adversity and realizing one's full potential. Think of it this way: When you strive to better yourself, you not only allow for the possibility of improving your own life, but also the well-being of all the people who surround you. Your family, friends and acquaintances all stand to benefit from your example of success.

One of the best ways to improve your life is by taking the time to invest in education. Jobs are hard to come by, and we're seeing that workers who lack a basic education are having a hard time finding and keeping jobs. I came across a statistic recently that revealed that more than 20 percent of America's working age population attended college but never earned a degree or credential. That's some 37 million Americans between the ages of 25 and 64 are at a decided disadvantage because they don't have the proper level of education. Just as I got benched because I was losing my vision, these people are being benched from the workforce because they don't have a higher education degree.

Thankfully, there are some movements underway to bring workers back to the classroom and acquire the skills they need to get back in the game. The latest is President Obama's just-announced plan to retrain workers for high-demand jobs. Called Skills for America's Future, this public-private partnership aims to bring the curricula at community colleges more in line with the needs of local companies. With partnerships in all 50 states, Skills for America's Future will support the president's goal of having five million more community college graduates and certificate holders by 2020.

The program is being spearheaded by the Aspen Institute. I can tell you from experience that this nonprofit research group is working to make a difference. My organization, Goodwill Industries International, is already working with the Aspen Institute on something we call Thinking to Action, our initiative to move workers to family-sustaining careers. Through Thinking to Action, Goodwill has entered into a strategic partnership with the U.S. community college system to facilitate access to certification programs that lead to educational opportunities and develop a framework to identify and deploy community college partnership strategies within the international Goodwill system.

Goodwill is also working with the Aspen Institute and others on the Community College/Career Collaboration - also known as the C4 project. In fact, the Lumina Foundation for Education recently announced a major grant to support this collaboration, which is designed to increase college and career success for thousands of people who have been unsuccessful in accessing and completing industry-recognized credentialing or certification options due to a variety of challenges. It does so by providing them with easy access to education, job-specific training and supportive services. Our goal is to foster 20 new community college/Goodwill partnerships to commit to implementing elements of three pilot programs that are already operating.

Just as with President Obama's new program, the C4 collaboration taps into the educational expertise of community colleges. Through that know-how, Goodwill will help connect workers with financial challenges to the financial aid they need to progress toward college degrees and training certificates.

And rather than having to stand on the sidelines, more and more Americans will be able to get back in the game, improving their lives and the lives of those around them.