By 2018, 64 percent of the available jobs in Nebraska will require a post-secondary education. Yet, nearly 10 percent of all Nebraskans ages 18 to 64 lack a high school degree or an equivalent and almost 25 percent of Nebraskans age 18 to 64 have no postsecondary education, which is almost 270,000 people. Moreover, 36 percent of adults in Nebraska are at or below basic literacy levels. With skill deficiencies such as these, many people are unable to get quality jobs and fully participate in our communities and economy.
In order to acquire education and skills, many Nebraskans need Adult Education (AE), which can provide them with the tools and support necessary to move on to additional levels of training and skill acquisition or employment. With so many Nebraskans lacking basic skills and postsecondary certificates, it is vital that we invest in AE programs that allow more people to get the training needed to support their family and fill needed jobs.
With this in mind, Appleseed is advocating for increasing our investment in AE in Nebraska. The state of Nebraska puts a modest amount of funding towards AE — only 10 percent of funding for adult education programs in Nebraska comes directly from the state. This is an especially small investment compared to our per-student investment in K-12 education ($11,582 per student for K-12 compared to $1,214.74 per student for AE). Due to this humble outlay, fewer students can access AE. Indeed, more than 50 percent of adult education programs have significant waiting periods for placement.
To address these issues, Nebraska should significantly increase its per-student investment in AE. Additional funding would allow more students to access these education programs in Nebraska, reducing the number of individuals that are on waiting lists presently. Funding could also help provide additional instructors and help decrease wait times for classes, allowing more students to more quickly access AE.
In addition to this, measures that help more adults transition from AE to postsecondary education are essential to meet our growing workforce needs. A strong focus on AE transitions can bridge the gap between the number of students who want to continue their education and the number of students who actually earn a postsecondary credential. It would also help us meet the employee needs of in-demand industries in our state.
We have an opportunity now to invest in Nebraska’s workforce and improve our educational programs in order to ensure hard-working Nebraskans are ready for the jobs of the future. During the 2016 Nebraska Legislature session, Appleseed will work on policies and ideas that will help bridge this skills gap, and ensure more hard-working Nebraska families can earn a sufficient wage.