What do people think about the connection between education and work? This was the big question posed at a concurrent session at the 2019 National Forum on Education Policy. Using state-level survey data, we joined experts from the Strada Education Network, North Carolina and Washington to discuss what the findings mean for education policy and practice. We concluded the session by unveiling an opportunity for states to engage in technical assistance projects using their own state’s survey data.
While many states have adopted ambitious goals aimed at increasing levels of postsecondary attainment, asking people broadly about their perceived need for education tells a slightly different story. Nationally, only about 1 in 2 people feel that they need additional education to advance in their career. These levels dip to about 1 in 3 in the Midwest United States.
The survey data also parse out an important lesson for postsecondary policy leaders: Individuals are more likely to seek out postsecondary education when it is directly connected to a career outcome such as a job placement or wage increase. In fact, they are more likely to enroll in courses that are offered on-site at their employer — even more likely than they would be to enroll with an online academic provider.
While these results may not be surprising, they have significant implications for states seeking to increase enrollment in postsecondary education and deliver the skilled workforces that state and local economies demand. The data provides a unique opportunity for states to find common ground in debates surrounding postsecondary education and its connection to the workforce. In their reactions to the data, Peter Hans (president of the North Carolina Community College System) and Michael Meotti (executive director of the Washington Student Achievement Council) agreed that the data suggest that education and workforce leaders need to blur the lines between their traditional roles. The survey data can be used to frame a conversation among education and workforce leaders around shared goals, ensuring meaningful educational experiences that set employers up with the talent they need to succeed.
States that are interested in accessing their own data profiles are encouraged to apply for technical assistance from us. From fall 2019 through fall 2020, selected states will design their own tailored data profiles and join in two meetings with colleagues from peer states. Interested parties can complete an Interest Form as individuals or as state teams by the July 24 deadline. Feel free to contact me with any questions about the technical assistance cohort.
Senior Policy Analyst
Education Commission of the States
Sarah supports the research and analytical capacity of the policy team in her role as a senior policy analyst at Education Commission of the States. Sarah has extensive experience in student financial aid programs, and is frequently called upon as an expert in state financial aid policy and practice. A recipient of state aid herself, Sarah believes that state policy leaders have a key role to play in ensuring affordable postsecondary opportunities for students from all backgrounds.