It’s not too late to go back to class

According to current research, up to 65 percent of the jobs that children entering elementary school today will end up doing havenát even been invented yet. That’s an exciting thought but also a disquieting one.

The statistic has tremendous implications for what we need to be teaching children, and also for what today’s adult workers need to do to stay competitive for good jobs. New jobs and new job requirements are being created now.

To help the citizens of our state keep up with the changing world of work, Ohio has established a goal: by 2025, 65 percent of all working-age adults will have a credential or 2-year or 4-year degree. We have a long way to go – we’re at about 45 percent now. The target isn’t a moon shot, but it’s not going to be easy to achieve. Succeeding is important because employers go where they can find qualified workers.

Thousands of Ohioans are close to a degree or credential but didn’t quite finish. They’re maybe two or three semesters from getting a diploma or certificate.

These individuals are referred to as “stopped-out” students. They stopped-out of school typically because their lives got complicated. They ran out of money for tuition, they couldn’t manage working long hours and going to school, or maybe their family needed them.

Completing a credential or 2-year or 4-year degree can be life-changing, allowing individuals to earn more and move up the economic ladder. Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce estimates that individuals with a bachelor’s degree earn $800,000 more over their lifetimes than those with just some college; those with an associate’s degree earn $200,000 more. Credentials certifying a person has a skill also can lead to better opportunities.

As a community, we need to reach those who need more education. Going back to school, especially in middle age, can be overwhelming. But colleges have all sorts of programs that recognize today’s students aren’t all age 18 and coming straight out of high school. Almost 4 in 10 students today are over 25, and they’re often working while going to school.

Nearby colleges offer flexible class schedules. They have tutors who can help enrollees brush up on their computer skills, which are essential not just for school, but also in the workplace. They have financial aid experts, and their admission counselors can help individuals get credit for on-the-job experience and learning and also for military service.

Fear of the unknown keeps many people from going back to school. They may not be aware that colleges have created pathway programs that make sure students take only the classes they need. Professors know that working adults don’t have time to waste, so class sequences are designed to get people through in the shortest amount of time possible.

As someone who formerly ran a manufacturing company, I know that competition is intense. Businesses aren’t just up against companies across the country; they have competitors from around the world. Employees in our community are great workers. They work hard, they’re loyal, and they’re problem-solvers. But without continuous education and training, without degrees and credentials, the best jobs may be out of reach.

Are you a stopped-out student? Give your college of choice a shot. Tell them what you need to come back. Ask them how long it will take to complete. Talk about what you need to do to get financial aid. Ask about getting credit for your work experience.

It’s never too late to go back to school ä especially for those who are looking for a better future, more opportunity and greater job security.

Bruce Beeghly has served on the Board of Trustees of Youngstown State University, the Ohio Board of Regents and the Liberty Local Board of Education. He formerly was the CEO of Altronic, Inc., a family-owned manufacturing company in Girard.