Why post-secondary education is vital now and in future

THORNWELL DUNLAP III

If you or a loved one has looked for a job recently, you’re aware of changes in the American workforce. Post-secondary education and training has become necessary to secure better employment opportunities.

Change creates challenges not only for workers, but also for those who create jobs. Let’s look at these challenges -- and potential solutions.

Indications are in the future there may still be some jobs for those with a high school diploma or less, but the ability to get a good-paying job will be substantially improved with education beyond high school.

Numerous studies have predicted that in the next five to 10 years, 60-65 percent of all new jobs will require some education beyond high school.

A recent Pew Research Center report, “The State of American Jobs,” identifies important trends:

-- From 1980 to 2015 the percentage of adults 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or higher increased from 17 percent to 33 percent.

-- During the same period, jobs requiring above-average education, training, and experience rose by 68 percent.

Their conclusion? “The clear majority of workers in today’s workforce are in jobs calling for significant preparation,” the report states. “At a minimum, these jobs require an associate’s degree or a similar level of vocational training, plus some prior job experience and one to two years of either formal or informal on-the-job training.”

A Georgetown University study illustrates the growing difficulty in finding work for those without some higher education:

-- In 1973, 32 percent of U.S jobs were held by high school dropouts, 40 percent by high school graduates (72 percent.)

-- By 2007, only 11 percent were held by dropouts, 30 percent by high school grads (40 percent.)

-- By 2018, only 10 percent of jobs will be held by dropouts, 28 percent by high school grads (38 percent.)

Another study documents the job growth by education attainment. Even through the recession years of 2008-12, jobs grew for all categories except those with a high school diploma or less. In fact, jobs declined by 10 percent for those with a high school diploma or less during this time and all indications are these jobs are not coming back.

The more you learn, the more you earn. In 2014, based on education levels, average median income of Greenwood County adults was:

-- $16,786 – no high school diploma.

-- $24,175 – high school diploma.

-- $30,992 – some college or an associate’s degree.

-- $39,920 – bachelor’s degree.

-- $53,462 – graduate degree.

The University of Washington’s “Self-Sufficiency Standard” (see http://selfsufficiencystandard.org/south-carolina website for more details) estimates the amount needed without public or private assistance for an independent household to meet basic needs (housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, taxes, emergency savings and other expenses.) The amount a single adult in Greenwood County must have to meet basic needs is $17,524 per year. For a single parent with a preschooler, the amount jumps to $28,347. Furthermore, based on this data a single person who drops out of high school will likely struggle to meet basic needs and a single parent with only one child must have more than a high school diploma to survive.

Fortunately, Greenwood is not standing idle in the face of these challenges. The Greenwood Promise was launched to provide financial support for local students to attain the education needed to support a better-paying job.

In addition, based on results from similar initiatives, students are more motivated to stay in school and develop skills required for self-sufficiency.

-- Within only a few years, the El Dorado, Arkansas Promise saw the dropout rate decrease from 8 percent to 1 percent.

-- The Kalamazoo, Michigan Promise saw degree completion rates rise by one-third, due primarily to greater bachelor’s completion.

-- The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Promise found students more likely both to enroll in college and to stay in for at least two years.

The Greenwood Promise will help ensure our next generation is on the path toward productive and rewarding lives. That is why Countybank and I support The Greenwood Promise.

Thornwell Dunlap is president/CEO of Countybank. He currently on The Greenwood Partnership Alliance board of directors, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta board of directors and is chairman elect of the South Carolina Bankers Association board of directors.