I remember the feeling of satisfaction I had when I hammered a nail into the wall of my first “real” office and hung up my diploma – a feeling of satisfaction and pride. A feeling that my hard work had finally materialized into something concrete that I could hang on a wall.
Across the state, hardworking Nebraska families have that same desire – a desire to achieve and succeed.
A new report released by Nebraska Appleseed entitled “Bridging the Gaps” illustrates ways that our state can create opportunities to turn that desire into diplomas, especially for low-income working families.
The report promotes new approaches, including providing more services to adults returning to school and the development of “bridge programs,” which link people in need of new skills to postsecondary education. These strategies are essential now – not only because education is a pathway out of poverty for struggling families, but also because our state faces a significant skills gap. The report points out that between 2008 and 2018 64% of job vacancies in the state will require post-secondary education, but our current educational attainment levels lag behind. Only 36.5% of Nebraska’s working age adults currently hold an Associate’s Degree or higher.
We must recognize our education and skills gap and build opportunities for working adults to fill our state’s need – so we can compete as a state, and so families can succeed. In doing so, we must also recognize that adult learners have different needs – like the need for access to child care while they learn – and different strengths – like the desire to reach graduation quickly.
Fortunately, more people across the state are recognizing these needs and opportunities. For example, an interim study (LR 206) introduced by State Senator Health Mello that will be considered by the Appropriations Committee of the Nebraska State Legislature this summer will explore funding streams available to adult education programs to better transition adults into postsecondary education. And, at the recent College Access Summit sponsored by Nebraska’s P-16 Initiative and the Education Quest Foundation, meeting the needs of the diverse “21st Century Student Body” was an important topic.
The momentum is building to create new opportunities for education in Nebraska. It’s our vision at Nebraska Appleseed that this momentum will lead to more diplomas, of course, but also to more successful workers and families in our state.