Did you know that if you take out GED diplomas, the percentage of U.S. students graduating from high school has not increased since the 1970s? This was revealed in a report called Pathways to Prosperity issued by the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2011.
This means that as a country we have not improved educational attainment in the past 40-plus years. It also means the individuals who have not been successful in securing this diploma were hit hardest during the most recent economic downturn. The unemployment rate for these high school dropouts was 15.8 percent compared to 5 percent for college graduates.
Other studies indicate that only 50 percent of high school graduates who pursue college level courses are academically prepared for college, and far too many of those require at least some remedial work in reading, math or communication upon entering college.
It is no wonder that in a time of high unemployment, employers are still struggling to employ workers who have the right skill sets for the jobs available.
Our challenges continue to grow. It is predicted that jobs being created will require workers with some postsecondary education, whether it be a credential, certificate, license or a degree beyond the high school diploma. This signals that knowledge and skills are the focus.
To say the world has changed since the 1970s would be a gross understatement. To say that job growth and prosperity in Northwest Indiana is highly contingent upon having an educated and skilled workforce is stating the obvious. We must align our education outcomes with our dreams for job growth and increased prosperity for all in Northwest Indiana. And we are ready to do so!
We are not waiting for changes in federal or state policies or results of political campaigns to change these trends in Northwest Indiana. The Regional Education and Employer Alliance for Developing Youth (RE²ADY) is composed of leaders across seven counties and they are working on a plan to transform our high school systems to ensure youths are RE²ADY for college and careers, which are no longer mutually exclusive.
This alliance of educators, employers, economic developers and local elected officials is committed to making sure each young person in Northwest Indiana has the best chance and opportunity for success.
The plan developed will include recommendations to strengthen the assessment system for grades seven to 12. It will make real-time adjustments in students' thinking and actions based on results and will ensure rigor in awarding college credits while students are still in high school to guarantee they are ready for college-level work.
Another objective will be to accelerate attaining degrees and industry certifications along with further developing and maintaining relationships between K-12, the postsecondary workforce, and economic development and business, making certain systems and real-time responsiveness needed in changing systems align.
Jim Clifton, CEO of the Gallup polling organization, says in his book "The Coming Job Wars": "If the problem of U.S. dropout rates isn't fixed fast, the United States will lose the next worldwide economic, job-based war because its players can't read, write or think as well as their competitors in a game for keeps -- their talent doesn't get maximized."
Even more deadly, Gallup suspects that those students' spirits and hopes are being irreparably broken.
We say, not here in Northwest Indiana! We are RE²ADY to help youth succeed.
Linda Woloshansky is president and CEO of The Center of Workforce Innovations and staff liaison to the Northwest Indiana Workforce Board. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.