American Workers are Key to Goal 2025


American adult workers may be the key to reaching an important goal. Sixteen years ago, Lumina Foundation introduced Goal 2025: to have 60 percent of American hold degrees, certificates or some high quality postsecondary credential. Now at half way to that date, Lumina has introduced a strategic plan to move close to goal achievement. And US American adult learners are a key element of the plan.

At the current rates of postsecondary attainment, about 24.2 million Americans will have postsecondary credentials of some kind by 2025. To reach Goal 2025, 16.4 million more Americans need to earn credentials. Many of these 16.4 million Americans are currently working in hospitals, schools, service industry and the myriad businesses in the United States. According to Lumina Foundation Strategic Plan for 2017 to 2025, these workers are key in the success of reaching Goal 2025.

By 2020, the plan call for increased attainment among:
• 2 million adult students who have attended college but not obtained a credential to complete their education
• 3.4 million adults with no recognized postsecondary education to complete certificates and certifications

By 2025, the plan the plan calls for:
• 6.1 million returning adult students who have college but not earned a credential to complete their education
• 5.5 million of the additional credentials to go to adults with no recognized postsecondary education

Twenty-five years ago, the US was the international leader in four-year degree attainment for 25-34 year olds. Today it is ranked 11th in the world. This affects the ability of the US to compete in world markets in terms of labor supply, production and profitability. Reaching goal 2025, for both the success of individuals and US businesses, requires strategic thinking and planning by all stakeholders.

“Without sufficient talent — talent that’s fully and thoughtfully developed, and steadily upgraded and in constant supply, the success we seek — the bright future we yearn for, that simply won’t happen,” says Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of Lumina Foundation.

Upgrading talent is one area where business leaders can affect the US economy and ensure success. When employers promote tuition assistance programs, they are sending a clear message that talent development is a priority to the business. When employees take advantage of their employer’s TAP, they are signaling that they want to be a part of business growth and development, and personal development for career advancement. “Adults are probably not attending for the love of learning, but rather the need for a sustainable future,” says Cheryl Hayak, Interim President and Provost of Grantham University.

To support adult learners in their quest for meaningful credentials businesses can follow the lead of universities in assessing and evaluating credentials. Universities have adapted to the needs of adult learners by offering CBE credits and recognizing that adult learners come to their education completion programs with varied and valuable experiences. Business can follow suit and help individuals follow defined career paths. Both of these help employees/adult learners see how they are part of a wider plan.

Adult learners may be the best hope for some businesses to find the talent they need. And all employees, regardless of past educational experiences or demographic profile, can work to improve their employment situation and contribute to personal, economic and social stability. For example, there is a vast need for computer science education and there will be vast opportunities for employment in this field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2024 nearly 4.6 million jobs will be in computer science and related fields (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015) and one analysis predicts a shortage of almost 100,000 computer science graduates per year. This shortage is most severe among women and underrepresented minorities.

Tuition assistance plans that encourage all workers to earn credentials, and adult learners who work to complete credentials are strong forces to move the US toward reaching Goal 2025 and remain a global leader. “Talent is and always has been the key to social and economic success — for individuals, cities and regions, for states and indeed for our nation as a whole,” said Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of the Lumina Foundation speaking to a regional network of business leaders. “Without sufficient talent — talent that’s fully and thoughtfully developed, and steadily upgraded and in constant supply, the success we seek — the bright future we yearn for, that simply won’t happen.”