The workers we need now: ABE and college
The workers we need now: ABE and college.
“College student” means much more than high school graduates attending a post-secondary institution. Now, there are more jobs requiring education beyond a high school degree, and the options of post-secondary pathways have become more diverse. Students can seek a certificate, complete specific courses online, or mix multiple school classes to make their own degree.
With this change in what employers want and what schools offer, far more people are looking to take advantage of new programs and increase their career prospects. We can see this change on college campuses today. Of the 376,000 students enrolled in 2017 at a Minnesota College or University, 67 percent are non-traditional, first-time undergraduates. “Traditional” refers to students who enroll immediately after high school graduation, and “non-tradition” refers to students who enter higher education at a later date.
At Metro North Adult Basic Education (ABE), we are very comfortable with non-traditional higher education students: they are the students who come to our classes each day. Almost three out of four of our students are over 25 years of age and are returning to school after a period away.
In 2015, the Minnesota legislature enacted a state post-secondary education attainment goal mandating 70 percent of Minnesota's adults, age 25 to 44, to have attained a post-secondary certificate or degree by 2025. While we have made progress, we have not yet met this goal. In 2015 there were only 58 percent of Minnesotans with a post high school degree or certificate. Last year, we only increased three percent with 61 percent of Minnesotans holding a degree or certificate. At this rate, we will not reach our mandated goal.
However, there is an opportunity that we are missing. Metro North ABE served over 4,000 students last year. Each classroom is filled with students who look more like our college's growing student body. These students are gaining the skills they will need to earn post-secondary degrees or certifications, and they could fill Minnesota's skills gap. As Minnesota looks to fill the need for middle and high-skilled workers, our next office and administrative technologists, nursing assistants or precision sheet metal technicians are sitting in one of Metro North's classrooms right now.