Lumina Foundation President and CEO Jamie Merisotis explains his organization’s goal to help higher education institutions develop and prepare students to contribute to the future workforce. To reach a 60 percent post-secondary education graduation rate by 2025, he says more needs to be done to help African Americans and Latinos, as well as adults who have little or no post-secondary education, to successfully graduate. Merisotis says there are many providers of post-secondary learning, but a greater focus needs to be put on the non-degree side of the equation, particularly if institutions are going to increase adult participation. Certifications can help people obtain employment, but they don’t necessarily lead to further education and employment. Many adults focused on obtaining a job prefer certification programs because they are assured of getting a job, while for many years, higher education institutions were perceived as not necessarily leading to employment. Overcoming this perception is an uphill battle with these adults, and higher education institutions need to be able to recognize these credentials, which will lead to stackable credentials that can help these adults get into college programs and earn degrees over time as they accumulate competencies. The key to growth in America is talent, and that talent not only needs to be developed, but also imported in some cases, he says. While education firms need to grow talent in the United States, immigrants also can fill in immediate and forthcoming talent gaps. Education institutions can work with employers to create a curriculum they need to help train workers to begin their job within a few weeks and continue to complete a degree program while they work.
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