As sustainability efforts continue to grab headlines across a range sectors, we shouldn’t limit those efforts just to industries like renewable energy. As the shelf life of skills shrinks and the durability of degrees declines, individuals are under increasing pressure to move beyond a one-and-done approach to learning. Yet our national investments in education and training still reflect an era when workers learned skills that could last a lifetime.

A new approach to funding education, however, could enable the creation of renewable learning funds: sustainable resources that can support learners in getting the workforce training they need year after year. Renewable learning funds would leverage investments in workforce development to create evergreen funds that recycle prior outlays to fund future adult learners to get the training they need. What’s exciting is that debt would not have to power these funds. Income Share Agreements (ISAs) could.

ISAs work by collecting a set percentage of a learner’s future income, as opposed to putting a student into debt. Through ISAs, there are a variety of ways a foundation or local or state government could create a renewable learning fund. A structure of this sort would overcome one of the major limitations of inadequate workforce development funding by creating a sustainable funding model that aligns the needs of regional labor markets and helps close the skills gap.

At its core, ISAs and the renewable learning funds that they enable are about making good on the promise of education and training by creating more viable—and sustainable—pathways to economic and social mobility.

Read the full article about renewable learning funds by Michael Horn at Christensen Institute.