Leveling the Playing Field


At the heart of the American Dream...

is the belief the same opportunities should be available to everyone with hard work and perseverance. Sure, people may start out in different places with access to different resources, but if the ideals of the American Dream hold true, anyone should be able to become who they want to be while earning a good living if they put in the time and effort. The truth is, the American Dream seems harder to attain today than ever before for many people.

Today, the playing field isn’t level.

Real wage growth and mobility for many folks such as skilled, service and entry level workers has remained level since the Great Recession. We have the lowest unemployment rate on record, yet many workers are under-employed or working multiple jobs and not receiving benefits. The divide between those who have jobs with growth potential and those who struggle seems to be widening based on location, education and access to resources. This is far from the American Dream our mothers and fathers worked hard to protect and we can do better. Since the recession, the trends show the majority of job growth that has occurred over the past ten years has been concentrated in major cities. Living costs in cities and in surrounding areas have risen due to their successes, often forcing people who are not in the highest income brackets to move further away. People end up stretching either time or money to keep a job in the city, either taking on long commutes, eroding the time they could spend going to school or using community resources, or paying for high housing costs. Both options put serious strain on families.

For those that stay in America's hard-working smaller towns, opportunities have changed as well.

Good jobs may have moved to cities to chase a bigger talent pool. Populations may have declined because there are fewer jobs, which decreased the capital that flows into these towns and affects the livelihood of small businesses. Jobs that stay may require retooling with new technology and skill sets, or employers may have to replace jobs to remain competitive. Education differences further exaggerate the divide. Less than a third of U.S. adults over 25 have a college degree, yet many employers continue to require a degree. Income opportunity nearly doubles for people who graduate college versus graduating just high school, however for many people college is not only expensive, but is also a time commitment that competes with making money and raising a family. For these reasons, getting a degree may take longer or may not happen.

Ironically, while a degree gets your foot in the door for many jobs, the skills and knowledge that are gained during college are often not actually put to use in the job.

On-the-job training, shadowing and apprenticeships are the programs that actually prepare you for the job. This means someone with the necessary skills, a good work ethic, a can-do attitude, and plenty of elbow grease who is ready to hit the ground running, often won’t be considered for a job with the potential for skills and income growth. This isn’t because they wouldn’t be the best person for the job, but rather because they don’t have the door-opening degree. Many with a college education move to cities where jobs are higher paying and those without tend to be located on the outskirts or in towns where good opportunities are changing or dwindling. Economically, it seems like the best path forward for young people is getting the best college degree possible and moving to the city. In reality, this is just one of many possible paths.

Entering and completing college, which is often tied to the wealth and resources of your family, grades, and the decisions made around the age of 18 can determine how far you go and where you end up,

but having just one option to pursue a path to prosperity doesn’t live up to our American ideals. The idea of the American Dream is that there are many paths forward based on your skills, your efforts, what your family needs, what companies and industries need, what the country needs, and your desire to make a difference in other’s lives. One's resources also play a huge role in navigating the workplace and determining their success. Some of these are what you know, who you know, your ability to learn, and how you put your skills to work. With this in mind, smaller towns have fewer resources to help their community navigate the changing job landscape, whereas communities in the city have an easier time crowd-sourcing to put together resources to help people. For example, someone may know of the jobs that have typically been available in their area, but may not know how to reskill for newer, higher growth jobs or jobs that can be done remotely. While some of the best students coming out of top schools have access to alumni networks, career centers, more people at work in more companies, and mentors to introduce them to jobs, others do not have that access or don't know where to start.

That’s why we’re building Ox,

to change the way people get jobs forever. It should be possible for anyone regardless of where you grew up, where you live now, the education you’ve attained, the job you’ve had, or the extent of the resources that have been available to you to get a great job. It will still take hard work and perseverance, but guidance on which jobs are growing, the step-by-step action plan for how to get there, along with some encouragement and access to people who can coach you and guide you to jobs with growth potential should be accessible to everyone. Building something like this is entirely possible and can change the way companies hire, they way companies determine who's the best person for their job, and make getting a good job something hard-working people expect to happen, rather than hope they get lucky enough to find. Starting today, we’ll be talking about the issues that hamper opportunities for everyone and offer practical step-by-step guidance on how to navigate the job landscape.

Ask us a job related question and we will get right back to you and help you along your way.

Joshua Clawson