The Time to Pursue Higher Education is Now

Technological advances, skills gaps and worker shortages all mean that this is an advantageous time to pursue higher education. Whether the goal is to enhance skills needed for work, gain a certificate or earn a degree, there is no better time to begin, continue or complete higher education.

Indeed, an online job search site, conducted a survey of over 1,000 HR managers and recruiters. The results show that businesses need and are having difficulty finding qualified workers, and that there are numerous opportunities for workers with the right higher education.

• 86 percent of HR managers and recruiters report that they find it challenging to find and hire technical talent.
• 75 percent of HR managers and recruiters think the time to fill job has increased in the past three years.
• 53 percent of HR managers and recruiters hired people who weren’t exactly qualified because they needed to fill a position immediately.
• 83 percent of HR managers and recruiters think not finding qualified hires has hurt their business from lost revenue or slower product development.
• 86 percent of HR managers say they find it challenging to find and hire technical talent, and 36 percent say they find it “very” challenging.

Employers and employees have the opportunity to solve these challenges together. Employed adults can plan their course of study around their specific industry and update their skills to meet needs that advanced technology creates. Doing this will help working adults improve their job security and “future-proof” their careers.

Future-ready or future-proof careers have many job openings and job openings will likely increase in the future. These careers are in fields such as business, education and healthcare, and pay competitive salaries in multiple markets. For example, careers that involve technology and data science cover many industries, are in demand and will continue to be in demand, according to Glassdoor. Since the 1900s then number of undergraduates in statistics has increased by more than 300 percent but may still fall sort of the labor market demand. In just one year, from 2013 to 2014, the number of bachelor’s in statistics increased by 17 percent. This was the 15th year in a row that the number of statistics graduates increased but businesses will need even more to meet job demands, according to the American Statistical Association.

Higher education institutions are responding to business needs for educated workers and the needs of students who pursue higher education. For many years, the focus has been on ensuring equity in access to higher education. It is still important to do this. Access to higher education means that workers have the opportunity to develop their skills and be part of growing changing businesses. But access isn’t enough to ensure this. Schools must retain their students and help them attain the education that is important to individuals and businesses.

“University Business Outlook 2017” shows that in 2017 higher education institutions will focus on raising retention and graduation rates to achieve completion. Sixty-one percent of colleges and universities say they will focus more on data to track students, and 55 percent say they will cross department lines to improve student success. Using data to predict patterns of success or failure can help students stay on an education path to achieve their goals. Adult students often have credits from previous enrollments, and problems transferring these credits may set back students on their path to completion. Because of this, 52 percent of high education institutions say they will create new articulation agreements that make it easier for students to transfer in or out of a school as they pursue higher education.

Decreasing enrollments in recent years may be a contributing factor to worker shortages and skills gaps. To combat this, schools will focus on increasing enrollment, according to University Business. Through their efforts, 82 percent of schools expect traditional enrollment and 68 percent expect nontraditional enrollment to go up. For adults in the workforce who have been undecided about whether or not to pursue higher education, the reality is that there is no better time than the present. Their higher education pursuit will pay off in job stability, improve the businesses they work for, and be supported by education institutions. Support for student success is a high priority for schools, and growing stronger. For 2017, 88 percent of campus officials say student success is one of their four highest priorities, compare to 84 percent who said that for 2016.