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Changing Business. Changing Lives. Adult Education—Expectations and Reality

We know that adult continuing education changes lives. And, now more than ever, our changing work environment demands even more education among workers.

Education rocks elections in the United States, making it the number one priority among voters and candidates. State and local governments invest in continuing adult education for its citizenry so they can compete for jobs globally. As the middle class grows, so does the family spend on education – and not just for their children’s education. To compete in the next century, employers are looking for something different in their college-educated job candidates – a combination of high emotional intelligence, powerhouse tech skills, and the right college degrees.

However, statistics tell a different story. According to Pearson, an education publishing and assessment service to schools and corporations, one in five adults lack proper written communication skills. A Gallup poll reveals that 87 percent of Millennials and 69 percent of non-Millennials believe professional development to be necessary. Yet, the Gallup report also shows that only half of Millennials strongly felt they had any opportunities to learn a new skill at their job in the last year. So, where does this leave education in the workplace?

What Employers Expect from an Employee’s Education

But employers have expectations as well. Those expectations shifted along with the rapidly evolving marketplace. Not so long ago, employers and businesses expected job candidates to have basic skills equivalent to their field of study. The expectations are that new hires should have the technology, leadership, and professional skills far beyond an entry or intermediate level.

  • They want an employee to add value immediately. A new employee must learn and adapt to new organizational dynamics and apply analytical skills and reasoning to make a positive impact quickly.

  • They want an employee with agile communication skills that can drive organizational success with their ability to work cohesively among a wide range of stakeholders. The new employee should also be flexible enough to accept and understand each stakeholder’s position and shape effective communications moving the organization toward its goals.

  • They want an employee who understands and feels comfortable with new technologies in all aspects of their position.

  • They want employees who feel comfortable working with diverse teams and representing specific fields of expertise to respond to emerging challenges.

Why Should Small Businesses and Employers Invest in Adult Education and Professional Development?

Businesses that promote continuing adult education ensure employee engagement. With a well-educated and highly skilled workforce, employees become desirable asset. Training offered to employees results in creative thinking and new ideas on the job. It also prepares employees and businesses for changing economic markets and technological challenges. Companies that provide ongoing adult education see a direct impact on profits from higher productivity. They also see improved morale and increased job satisfaction. Often employees who participate in employer-sponsored training or tuition reimbursement are the perfect candidate pool for selecting future leaders.

The True Benefits behind a Highly Skilled and Talented Workforce

When you invest in an employee’s education, it’s not just about empowering the employee. An educated person has a greater chance of scoring a better-paying position. Hopefully, they’ll find one in your company, contributing what they’ve learned in the classroom. Employees can expect a more stable, secure, and happy life with a better-paying position. Businesses can expect an educated person to become a responsible citizen and a contributing member of their organization and the community. Essentially, they become an extension or reflection of the company they work for, its vision, and its future. Overall, society benefits when life-long learning is available, a ripple effect, if you will.

The U.S. is prosperous, with a high literacy rate. Its citizens have a higher per capita income compared to developing nations where people live below the poverty line, and literacy is low. Bottom line – communities and businesses benefit when employees engage in life-long learning. Ultimately, we can correlate adult education and economic prosperity. Its benefits don’t exist in a vacuum.

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