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David Bolton: Back to School for Adult Learners

Take a second to consider what “back to school” means to you.  I am transported back to my childhood. I remember my mother dragging me to the mall for new clothes, the excitement of choosing school supplies and the anticipation of seeing friends on the first day. It may take you to your college years or the responsibilities you feel as a parent to ensure your child has all the tools needed for success. As we prepare for a new school year, I ask you to consider a population that may not normally come to mind – adult learners.

This is one of the target demographics for the Community Foundation’s newest county-wide initiative. Guilford Jobs 2030 (GJ30) has one overriding goal: Increase the percentage of the population with post-secondary credentials from its current rate of 46 percent to 60 percent by the year 2030. While this includes any education above high school, much of our focus will be on certifications and Associate degree-level achievement.

While success will add $1 Billion to the local economy annually, along with a total of 14,000 jobs, our ambitious goal means it’s more than a workforce and economic development initiative. Reaching 60 percent amounts to helping 30,000 additional people earn credentials, meaning we must make education available and accessible to all our neighbors. This includes overcoming disparities in Guilford County’s educational attainment between white and minority populations. African American, Latino and refugee populations are currently more than 50 percent less likely to earn post-secondary credentials.  GJ30’s goal is to have all demographics at 60 percent by 2030. Finally, while achieving this goal will include working with school age children, it also requires we focus on adults aged 25-44.

Outcomes and goals matter. They influence the planning phase of an initiative, who sits at the table, populations most effected and, maybe most importantly, the services required to achieve success. We chose an educational achievement goal that reaches the entire community and requires an all-hands-on deck response.  So as the school year approaches, consider what it would take to change the direction of your children’s lives as a single mother working two jobs to make ends meet.  How would you prepare to further your education? What kind of assistance would you need to make that happen? How would that change what “back to school” means to you?

System implementation will begin in Greensboro and High Point next year. We look forward to demonstrating what “back to school” means to the 40 organizations that have been at the table developing GJ30.

David Bolton – Director, Workforce Initiatives

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