Addressing the Confidence-in-the Future Gap with a Company Mission that Matches the Moment

As election post-mortems continue, views vary on what happened in this year’s vote that fooled nearly all the pundits. While the debate continues to rage in some quarters, nearly every credible source has confirmed that across battleground states, from urban to rural districts, a powerful, large scale and often under-appreciated voter cohort materially changed the election outcome.

It appears that many working-class citizens voted the way they did because they feel they have not been given a “fair deal” in the 21st century workforce. This group also argues that many economic and social policies over the past 25 years have not trickled down to the bulk of the population. In addition, they also often feel “those in charge” are too distant from the concerns and sensibilities of the blue-collar worker.

This confidence-in-the future gap drove a tidal wave of engagement as both sides of the aisle tried to grapple with the growing populist anger. This election also helped issue a call-to-arms for leaders and powerful institutions to listen more, talk less, and better stand up for all Americans.

It is important to point out that our fellow citizen’s demand for change extends well beyond government; indeed, there has been substantial loss of trust in many of traditional iconic institutions. This includes the corporate sector, as less than 20 percent of people say they even respect companies in the banking, health insurance, or pharmaceutical industries. This all translates into a significant number of Americans feeling greater anxiety, and many under-educated and under-employed people rationally feeling at risk of being displaced by changes in the modern economy.

So what does all this mean for education and training providers? I think it is both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge for those of us who work in upskilling and career credentialing is to understand the importance of addressing how to make sure that career-focused skill-building is the most powerful way to change a future and self-empower individuals to change their career trajectories. At the same time, we should also embrace an enormous opportunity, namely that we have a role to play in helping Americans build a stronger future through affordable, relevant, and accessible education and training.

As it so happens, there are several organizations across the political spectrum seeking to support working class populations, and our social outcomes and skills enhancement brand promise at Penn Foster is totally aligned with the challenge and opportunity before our country. That’s because we focus on:

• Empowering working class adult learners

• Enabling career-focused knowledge, skills and confidence building

• Upskilling to improve employability and workplace effectiveness

We believe that helping people in the new skills economy is not a zero sum game. In fact, the market for supporting the aspirations of others is nearly infinite, and the opportunity grows as all key players succeed. This social outcomes network effect phenomenon occurs because the more organizations that embrace employment enablement and upskilling the greater the opportunities for collaboration. 
 Our aim continues in earnest to build a skills enterprise providing competencies, credentials, career pathways and employment services in partnership with other like-minded institutions to amplify social outcomes. We will do that by addressing employer’s skills and talent needs, and enhancing each students/candidates academics and employment.

In fact, working with our for-purpose, employer and government partners we have all the ingredients required to deliver a student experience that meets working and underemployed adults where they are today, powered by our self-paced learning approach, high affordability, no debt, and high fidelity accreditation.

In periods of economic uncertainty, we all rely on ‘anchors’ and support systems. We are committed to unleashing and empowering other institutions that share in common the right values to help convert large scale frustration and fear into a positive change agenda, and to help our adult learners pivot towards a stronger future. Working adults are not looking for perfection — they are looking for decency and experiences that lift them up, make them more employable and able to provide for themselves and their families.

Penn Foster seeks to serve those who are anxious for a better future, and in need of skills to enable their economic mobility. As many of our fellow Americans navigate in a complicated world, and into an economy where knowledge and skills are a primary vaccine to the motion sickness of change, we offer them opportunity to reach their highest potential. Our mission in concert with other leading organizations is matched to the moment, and we look forward to seizing this unique opportunity to address, once and for all, the confidence-in-the-future gap.