What Would You Do with a Million Dollars?

College & Career Readiness | 08/04/2015

Amber England
Executive Director

Amber England is Executive Director of Stand for Children Oklahoma.

A few years ago my dad called to tell me he had decided to return to the workforce after retiring a year earlier from a job he had for 37 years.

37 years with the same company, can you imagine?

While he was applying for this new job, he was asked to fill out an application which required him to write down his work history. He laughed and said, “Amber, there was an entire page, front and back, of space to write down my work history and I only needed one line.”

Upon seeing my dad’s consistent work history, the HR department hired him right there on the spot. And he’s happily employed by Peterbilt in North Texas, assembling semi-trucks that are sold all over the world.

My dad’s story probably isn’t too uncommon from many Oklahomans of his age who graduated high school, got married, began a family and went right into the workforce without ever going to college. They were able to make a good living for their family and even had enough left at the end of the month to splurge on a family vacation or a night out to dinner at a local restaurant.

But my dad’s story isn’t the story for the majority of high school graduates today. Most will find that a high school diploma often isn’t enough to make ends meet for themselves, let alone provide for an entire family. Which is why it’s so important to ensure that every child graduates high school prepared for college or for career training.

So when I sat down a few weeks ago with Fred Morgan, the CEO of the Oklahoma State Chamber for the taping of the Business Roundtable, we talked about the intersection of business and education and what needed to happen to make sure more Oklahoma students come out of high school ready for college or workforce training.

Businesses have a vested interest in our education system because without a highly skilled workforce, businesses can’t be successful. And without the success of businesses, jobs for hard-working Oklahomans are hard to come by. So the benefit of the mission critical work to get more kids access to and prepared for college and career training is a mutual one between the business and education communities.

If you want to hear more about how businesses and education can work together to accomplish this goal, check out this video of the Business Roundtable show that appeared on Cox last week.

I want to leave you with one final thought. When my dad graduated high school in 1973 the wage gap between those who had a high school diploma verses those with college or career training was only about $7,000 a year—and I promise you he had that made up in working about a month’s worth of overtime.

Today, that gap is more than double with college and career trained graduates earning close to $18,000 more a year than their high school diploma only counterparts. And over a lifetime college graduates earn roughly $860,000 more—that’s almost a million dollars more than those with only a high school diploma.

What would you do with a million dollars?

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