Reporting on the connections between education and work

Unlocking opportunity for everyone

Students should start early in exploring their purpose and talents, write Roy Spence and Ryan Stowers. A new Texas-based campaign seeks to do that, with an eye toward rewarding careers.
Roy Spence

Many issues divide Texas, but everyone in the Lone Star State appears to agree on one critical issue that, when solved, will fix so many others: Texas has the spirit and ability to do more in the intersection of postsecondary education and workforce development to unlock every Texan’s extraordinary potential.

Far too many young Texans, and yes, young Americans, face barriers to pursuing educational pathways that help them discover and unlock their unique potential—and the entire state is taking notice. Recent survey data from Texas 2036 found that 62 percent of Texans are “very or extremely concerned that the state’s $100 billion yearly investment in education and workforce doesn’t lead to well-paying jobs.” Texans were also supportive of efforts to innovate education and workforce programs to “ensure Texans earn wages that are at least high enough to stay off all government benefits.

Ryan Stowers

In a state with a booming economy and world-class education institutions, it’s understandable that Texans believe if we all step up together, there is a better future out there for everyone. So do we.

To unlock the potential in every learner, Texas has the vision and wherewithal to create, build, and scale a positive movement of educators, parents, workforce development agencies, union and non-union associations, and employers. This movement will help students start early by exploring their purpose and talents while they are in middle school and high school. And instead of trying to get young people to become average at what they are bad at, we should motivate them to become great at what they are already good at. This would represent a commitment not just to education, but more importantly, to a lifetime of learning with an emphasis on the truth: if you learn more, you can earn more—throughout your life.

This positive reality is at the core purpose of the Make it Movement, an Austin-based nonprofit founded by Roy. The Make it Movement is on a mission to use marketing as a force for good, to help young learners discover their talents and purpose, and to show them and their parents, friends, and families a whole new world of high skill, high income careers—right here, right now. Even though these students have experienced severe disruptions to their education during the pandemic, the goal is to help them have more hope and confidence in their futures, so that right after high school they can start making a great living and, most importantly, find purpose doing what they love to do.

The Austin-area has high demand for skilled workers. However, from conversations with young people, it was striking to learn that many high schoolers in Central Texas found their talents compatible with careers in carpentry, welding, and engineering, but they had no idea how to pursue them. What’s more, many of these students had no idea these careers could be so lucrative for them and their families, while also offering opportunity to grow and acquire skills through lifelong learning. It was also alarming to learn that nearly half of learners in America never sought out advice from anyone about options after high school.

In response, the Make it Movement is partnering with local schools to connect students, parents, high school counselors, administrators, and others with critical information so they’re able to empower learners. Imagine if a student had gifts that were the perfect fit to be a solar technician and their high school counselor was able to seamlessly connect them with opportunities? Given the unique needs of every learner, this isn’t an easy task. That’s why we’re rolling out a site that’s a one-stop-shop for partners so they can better understand the options available to them. We’re also working with groups such as Austin Community College, the United Way of Austin, and the Texas Association of Home Builders to proactively engage learners so they’re never feeling lost when it comes to a clear path to career opportunity.

Sparking this movement could be transformational. But if every learner is unique, it’s also important that we have a diversity of options that reflect the individual needs and preferences of each learner—whether it’s a four-year degree, a certificate program, or a welding credential from a local union. We have those innovative partners right here in Texas. For example, PelotonU, an Austin-based hybrid college, offers competency-based education to provide world-class experiences for working adults. Texas State Technical College has become a national leader in collaborating with the business community, so learners are equipped to discover who they are while acquiring the necessary skills to pursue jobs in in-demand careers.

Through first recognizing that each learner possesses something extraordinary, we can maximize taxpayer dollars by maximizing every young Texan’s full potential. This starts with recognizing each learner’s individual gifts and talents and continues with building movements to empower them to pursue education and careers filled with fulfillment and purpose. While the Make It Movement’s home will always be Texas, we want to create partners to scale it—fast—across America. This is a solution Texans want that the whole country can get behind.  

Roy Spence, Chairman and Co-Founder of The Purpose Institute, is the founder of the Make It Movement. Ryan Stowers is Executive Director of the Charles Koch Foundation.

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