BRONX FUTURE
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BRONX FUTURE

THE PLAN: What is the future of education and workforce in the Bronx?

Post #5 in a series on transforming the Bronx economy

Education and workforce development should prepare Bronxites to take advantage of and lead the transformation of all of the sectors our Bronx-wide process is focusing on. This means ensuring that we all have the tools and resources to be successful and civically engaged members of our society, and to participate in and lead the building of a more democratic, sustainable, and equitable economy.

The current landscape of education and workforce and the borough’s history reflect both assets and challenges to learn from and shift. Bronx youth face the worst economic prospects in the country. Our borough’s history of disinvestment and marginalization combined with an education system that does not have adequate resources to prepare or support students tells us why. Challenging neighborhood and school conditions lead to outcomes like chronic absenteeism; the highest rates of students dropping out of high school, and lowest graduation rates compared to other boroughs; and the ongoing criminalization of marginalized and students of color. Disconnected youth and adults looking to continue their education and access good jobs are often met with barriers to access opportunities that align with their skills and interests and pay family-sustaining wages. In 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that over the next 5 years, the fastest growing jobs across the country are the ones with the highest educational requirements. In the Bronx, 27.6% of residents have a high school diploma and only 12.8% of residents have a college degree. Bronxites who do excel often leave the borough and the city for better opportunities.

At the same time, the Bronx is the youngest borough in the city, and consistently in the top five fastest growing counties in the state. The Bronx is also home to some of the country’s most ambitious experiments in cooperative economic development (see examples here, here, and here.) We also have a long history of organizing for equitable development, for voice and power in schools and our communities, and for quality, public education. Our educational, cultural, and healthcare institutions are also key economic players with major spending power. These institutions, along with labor unions, and many organizations across the borough invest in Bronxites through certification programs, apprenticeships, job-readiness programs, and more.

To transform our local economy, we need to overhaul our education and workforce development systems to ensure they are fully resourced, coordinated, and connected to a comprehensive understanding of the growing sectors in the borough. This will ensure that youth, immigrants, returning citizens, and other adults have the ability to access free and ongoing educational opportunities, and are prepared to take on jobs that pay family sustaining wages and build careers.

For example, we can make use of Green New Deal and Just Transition plans to create new careers in renewable energy and climate justice, and make sure they are union jobs that pay living wages. We can support and foster the skills and creativity of residents to create businesses, hire their neighbors, and build community wealth. Let’s make it so Bronxites can thrive right here, and continue to call the borough home for generations to come.

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