Education is a major rung on the ladder to wealth equity – Crain’s Chicago Business

One alternative path to career success and wealth building is a community college education, such as that provided by the City Colleges of Chicago. These institutions offer a viable, low-cost academic pathway to a bachelor’s degree as well as career and technical education. They generally require less than four years, or can ladder into a four-year option at another college or university.

Even after obtaining a degree, graduates must have access to the people and jobs that can turn their academic credentials into a wealth-building career. Without deliberate attention to linking their academic achievement to the appropriate opportunity, many graduates may end up working at jobs and careers below their capacity. 

Apart from college, postsecondary programs and apprenticeships can provide young people with training and placement into lucrative careers. Some include stipends for those who need to cover living expenses while pursuing their career goals. A successful local example is the apprenticeship and work-based learning program at Aon, which has bolstered and diversified its workforce by expanding its recruitment universe. 

At the same time, businesses and others seeking to invest in our young people should consider alternatives to a four-year college degree as an entry card. For example, is your business offering internships to students from nontraditional backgrounds? Can it partner with a community college or other entity to develop workers with the skills you need while expanding local job opportunities? Are your job descriptions needlessly limiting those opportunities? Is a four-year college degree necessary or just a barrier to entry for those who might otherwise qualify through their skills or life experience? 

Education remains a ladder to a successful career and wealth-building opportunity for millions of Black and Latinx families that have been denied them historically. However, they must be provided with the support, access and options that enable them to succeed and fulfill the promise and potential afforded by their work experience or degrees. 

Our businesses and institutions must recognize that there is more than one ladder to success, and each requires all the rungs necessary for young people to make the climb successfully. 

Caleb Herod, a former high school math teacher, leads The Chicago Community Trust’s efforts to support educational attainment and workforce development and to build inclusive business practices in the Chicago region. The Chicago Community Trust is a sponsor of Crain’s Equity.