“If they are going to meet people where they are, education solutions must embrace employers and work-centered pathways.”

Policymakers, employers and higher education leaders all champion the power of education to improve economic health and well-being. The workforce demand for skilled employees is greater than ever—with longstanding forecasts that 65% of job openings would require postsecondary education by 2020.  And the 7 million job openings in the country now outstrip the number of unemployed Americans, in part because of a mismatch between the demands of available jobs and the skills in the pool of talent. More than half of employers say that job candidates’ lack of requisite skills is harming their companies’ productivity.

Perceived Need for Additional Education by State:

To address this skills gap, enormous resources are focused on engaging individuals to complete meaningful credentials and develop skills that will increase their value in the job market and fuel local and state economies. A dozen states have started free community college initiatives to encourage more residents to enroll, and another dozen are considering a similar move. Many of the initiatives are focused on recent high school graduates, but a significant number of states are looking to expand them to working adults. Tennessee, a leader in the free community college movement, has already done so. In an ambitious effort to reach more of the adult population, California is creating an entirely new online community college, which will offer competency-based and other programs that maximize flexibility for students. Still other states, such as Kentucky and Maryland, have focused on getting “near-completers”— residents with a significant number of college credits but no degree—back into college and to graduation.

But despite such significant effort at both the state and federal level to get more Americans to start and complete postsecondary credentials, too many policymakers and practitioners have paid too little attention to what actually motivates individuals to pursue additional education.

This Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Survey report focuses on the perceived need for additional education among Americans of all backgrounds, as well as how likely they are to pursue additional education and training and what would motivate them to do so. Perhaps not surprising, career outcomes lie at the heart of their decision-making. 

End of Report Excerpt