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Why Investing in Adult Education Is an Economic Catalyst


Reecie Stagnolia

Chair, National Association of State Directors of Adult Education (NASDAE)

Reecie Stagnolia, Chair of the National Association of State Directors of Adult Education (NASDAE) offers insightful responses to the oft asked ”How do we address America’s skill gap?”

According to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, “By 2020, 65 percent of all jobs in the economy will require postsecondary education and training beyond high school.” In The Coming Jobs War, author Jim Clifton, chairman of the Gallup Organization, noted that, by 2025, the United States will need 23 million more degree holders than our colleges and universities will have produced. 

Because we don’t produce enough high school graduates to meet the demand of America’s economy, non-traditional adult students entering and staying in the educational pipeline are the solution – in other words, high school equivalency graduates produced through our adult education system are the key to a more skilled workforce. There are over 23 million working-age Americans (representing nearly 12% of the United States workforce) without a high school diploma or equivalency. These individuals are unable to fully participate in the workforce.

Our nation’s adult education system is working toward preparing our students to be college-and-career-ready, to prepare them not just for a job, but a better job and ultimately a career. We are responding to the growing demand from employers for employees with essential soft skills as well as strong foundational academic skills. Adult educators realize the urgency for students to move further faster in their attainment of skills and educational credentials.

We must transform our nation’s workforce to meet current and future demands. It is essential for employers to engage as our partners by investing in prospective and incumbent employees through tuition assistance and release time to participate in education and training programs. 

An investment in adult education is an investment in transformative change in America. Adult education transforms Americans’ lives by: helping break cycles of educational apathy and intergenerational poverty; significantly reducing public social service costs, reducing unemployment, and lowering incarceration costs.

For the sake of our nation’s global competitiveness. We have to be flexible, nimble, responsive and innovative risk-takers who approach the aforementioned challenges with a laser focus and a sense of urgency.

Reecie D. Stagnolia, Executive Director, Kentucky Skills U, Education & Workforce Development Cabinet

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