Improving attainment for all students and our workforce

January 25, 2018

With the New Year begun and the spring semester now fully underway, it’s always a great time to look toward the future and what it may bring for faculty, staff and students of the North Dakota University System.

Some of those forward-striving initiatives like Envision 2030 and the Senate Bill 2003 campus studies, are well underway. Plenty has been written so far of those consensus-building and fact-finding processes, so today I’d like to write about a third leg of our aspirational worldview: Attainment.

Attainment can be described in the realm of higher education as the point where some type of post-secondary program completion has successfully concluded. This can be anywhere from credentialing and certificate programs through graduate school.

Throughout the United States in the past few years, there’s been a push to increase attainment across the board. Many states such as Indiana and Tennessee have made it a focal point for their respective higher education systems. This is due to the fact that technology is changing our economy so quickly – faster than ever before – that the jobs which are still here or being created largely require some type of higher learning.

The rate of attainment among adults isn’t keeping up with the needs of workforce. According to the Lumina Foundation, as of 2015 the national average for adult attainment – those with some type of post-secondary degree – was 45.8 percent. In North Dakota, we can continue to say we’re above average, at around 48.8 percent. The private, non-profit foundation, which exists to further education, notes that by 2025 nearly 60 percent of all jobs will require some type of education beyond high school.

“Since 2011, the U.S. economy has added 11.5 million more jobs for workers with education beyond high school but only 80,000 more jobs for those with a high school diploma or less,” Lumina reported.

That means that higher education across the board has to work harder to help our citizens maintain qualifications to stay in the workforce, but also that allow them to stay engaged with a changing economy.

This past August, the university system was awarded a $100,000 grant by Lumina in order to begin finding ways to reach our own goal of 65 percent attainment by 2025. Earlier this month, we held the kickoff session at Bismarck State College that brought together representatives from the NDUS, the tribal schools, career and technical education, K-12 and workforce experts to begin ironing out how we can help North Dakotans achieve their own attainment and ensure that no worker is left out because they lack necessary industry credentials.

We’re hopeful as this process moves forward that we can find clear, affordable and accessible paths for everyone and anyone looking to expand their knowledge, skills and abilities. We are confident that in doing so we will increase our ability to hit the State Board of Higher Education’s main goal: the creating and maintaining opportunities for students to find success, right here at home.