The ultimate mission of every non-profit is to change the world for the better. Certainly, that goal inspired Swede Roskam and Dan Mickelson to launch EALgreen 35 years ago. Their plan was to enable corporations to donate excess inventory to colleges so that those institutions could turn the money saved on supplies into scholarships for financially disadvantaged students. Over the last 35 years, EAL has succeeded in this intention to an extraordinary degree, raising over $18 million to pay for over 15,000 scholarships.
EALgreen’s mission is becoming more important with each passing year.
In the first half of the twentieth century, a college education was regarded as an advantage whether a student was pursuing a professional career or a leadership role in the industry. Still, the majority of Americans began their careers with a high school diploma or less. However, starting in the 1970’s, innovations in technology were making occupations that had been the mainstay of high school-educated workers, such as manufacturing, natural resources, construction and administrative secretarial services less viable as lifelong career choices.
By 1967, only 31 percent of the American workforce was engaged in manufacturing. By 2007 that number had dropped to just 16 percent. In addition, white-collar support positions such as file clerk, phone operator, bookkeeper and secretary also declined to the point of extinction due to the advent of personal computers, cell phones, accounting software, desktop publishing set-ups and so on. With the Great Recession of 2008, 1.7 million clerical and administrative jobs were lost with only 300,000 returning after the recovery took hold in 2010.
Even during the Great Recession, a college education helped workers keep their jobs.
Over the last 30 years there has been a significant shift in the economy making a secondary education not only preferable to employers but often as a mandatory requirement for hire. Here’s just one example. According to a 2016 report entitled, “America’s Divided Recovery, College Haves and Have-Nots” by Anthony P. Carnevale, Tamara Jayasundera and Artem Gulish, almost three million manufacturing jobs were lost between 2007 and 2010. Workers with a high school education or less – 1,563,000 – lost their jobs, as did 808,000 workers with some college education. But only 375,000 of those with a BA degree were let go.
During the recovery, college grads were reemployed faster and more frequently.
From 2010 to 2016, manufacturers began hiring again but they were three times more likely to hire back workers with at least some college courses than those with only a high school diploma. The same proved true for those employed in healthcare. In 2008, 189,000 high school grads lost their healthcare service jobs. By 2016 another 473,000 joined them on the unemployment line. However, for those with a BA or higher, the reverse applied. In 2008, 146,000 may have lost their jobs throughout the healthcare field but by 2016, they had found new positions among the 1,672,000 new jobs created in that sector.
Currently, almost two out of three jobs require some form of education beyond high school.
A recent study conducted by Georgetown University’s Center of Education and the Workforce shows that assuming recent levels of production continue, by 2020 our economy will experience a shortfall of five million college-educated workers. This is because by that year (just three years from now) 65 percent of all jobs will require a bachelor or associate’s degree. This is especially true in the fastest growing areas of employment – science, technology, engineering, mathematics, health care and community service.
Clearly, the need for a highly educated workforce has never been greater.
While front line workers may be being replaced by automation, sophisticated computer software, etc., the need for employees who can learn new skills, do pro-active research, analyze problems, innovate solutions and initiate action within highly complex information systems has increased. All of these skills are routinely taught, practiced and honed by college students in every field of study because college is designed to further critical thinking whatever industry a graduate enters.
Obviously, there is much more to say.
This is just the beginning of an important conversation on why the work of EALgreen matters, not only to the individual students, schools and donors that we serve, but also to our whole nation. In the future, we’ll cover other aspects of how and why our approach of inclusion for students of all races, creeds and backgrounds is in keeping with our national values and supportive of a more prosperous future for us all.
Thank you for all that you do for EALgreen, our college partners, our donors and, above all, our student scholars.