Editor's Note (The View From Here)

Developing Human Capital

Years ago, the National Governor’s Association made the statement, “the driving force behind the 21st-century economy is knowledge, and developing human capital is the best way to ensure prosperity.” This is a statement that held true then and still holds true today.

While personal prosperity may include an element of luck, it is mainly influenced by our incomes and our jobs. After years of high unemployment levels the job market is finally improving — but it is also changing. It has been reported that 35 percent of the job openings will require at least a bachelor’s degree and 30 percent will require some college or an associate’s degree. An area of growth will be in STEM-related jobs — computer systems analysts, systems software developers, medical scientists and biomedical engineers. There is no question that to fill the jobs in these fields we need a highly qualified workforce… which means access to a quality education.

In K–12, the keyword is not so much “access” as it “quality.” Having had the opportunity over the years to visit a number of K–12 schools it is readily apparent to me that what is available to some students is not available to others. New schools are being designed with state-of-the-art technology and spaces designed for STEM education. Unfortunately, of the 98,000+ public K–12 schools, not many of them are new and even fewer are designed to adequately handle STEM. The truth is that you are more likely to see schools built during our first push for science education during the ´50s and ´60s — in response to Sputnik being launched.

In higher education, access often comes down to dollars. Many states are still faced with limited resources and fierce competition for the funds that are available. This has translated into reduced funding for higher education by the states and increases in tuition, resulting in disparities between those who can afford a college education and those who cannot. Thus, the problem — unless access to higher education is increased and extended to larger segments of the American population, hope of filling the deficit in skilled workers is nil.

Without a plan to provide access to a quality education for all, prosperity will not be in our future.

This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of College Planning & Management.

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