Adult Students Need to Be a Higher Ed and Workforce Priority
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted countless industries and forced millions into unemployment this year, and according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, even more people have had their educational path derailed because of economic or health-related challenges. Additionally, many people who work in low-wage, non-college jobs are at an increased risk of losing their employment to the accelerated implementation of automation.
This is signaling that the labor market and educational institutions need to include adult students in their ongoing focus and policies. Educational paths toward skill-building and inclusion will become increasingly important to maintain an active and productive workforce that has adapted to a new reality.
Two main areas where the Chronicle’s Goldie Blumenstyk sees the most attention from colleges, higher-ed groups, and policy entities are:
- Streamlined Transfer Pathways for Adult Students – The traditional educational pathway is changing, and many adults will need to update their education to stay relevant within the workforce. Educational institutions need to focus on creating simpler and more effective pathways to higher learning for all types of students.
- Targeted Skill-Building for Adult Students – Career requirements are changing, and education must also adapt to provide adult students with the right skills for success in their careers.
Other areas needing to be addressed include:
- Better Access for Women – Educational institutions need to focus on providing better access for women students who have left the labor market so they can start or complete higher education that furthers their career opportunities.
- Improved Access for Hispanic, Black, and Native American Adult Students – People in these demographics over the age of 24 had some of the lowest enrollment rates in 2019, which underlines a critical need to provide better pathways to educational and career success for them.
- Expand “Free-College” Programs to Include Adult Students – Over 50% of free-college programs directly exclude adult and returning students from benefiting from these types of programs.
Adult Students Need Pathways to Career Opportunities
COVID-19 has identified many legacy systems that are not as effective anymore, as well as accelerated important changes in how we understand the future of work. Educational institutions need to adapt to properly prepare the labor market for a rapidly changing future.
To help, the Clearinghouse has increased its commitment to support all learners — across both education and workforce communities — gain skills and credentials to enable them to find good jobs.