‘This is nothing short of a crisis’: MDC facilitation supports setting N.C. postsecondary attainment goal

RALEIGH, N.C. (February 20, 2019)– The myFutureNC Commission issued a “Call to Action” for North Carolina that proposes a bold statewide education attainment goal: Two million 25- to 44-year-olds with a high-quality postsecondary degree or credential by 2030.

The “Call to Action” is a 166-page report that is the result of a year-long intensive program of work by the myFutureNC Commission. It suggests a number of indicators to track progress, as well as focus areas and priorities the state may consider to reach the goal. The Commission’s mission was to break down silos, conduct research, solicit input from public and private sectors, bridge geographies, and create a shared vision for education from pre-K to work.

MDC staff served as facilitators, advisors, and partners in the myFutureNC Commission’s year of research, community outreach, deliberations, and writing, supported by grants from the Lumina Foundation and the John M. Belk Endowment.

“If we want to expand opportunity for North Carolinians and we want to build a more prosperous future for our state, we must dramatically increase educational attainment. The data are stark: today, fewer than half of North Carolinians between the ages of 25 and 44 hold a high-quality, postsecondary degree or credential. But the vast majority of newly created jobs requires education beyond a high school diploma” said Dale Jenkins, MyFutureNC co-chair and CEO of Medical Mutual.

“Our educational opportunities are not equitably distributed across the state,” he said. “Students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds do not earn the same level of degrees with students who have economic stability in their lives. This troubling mismatch of talent and supply, and the demands created by the inequality of the educational opportunities across our state, this is nothing short of a crisis. If we do nothing and if we remain on the current trajectory that we’ve established with our educational attainment objectives, the gaps are going to still persist, and we’ll have over 400,000 North Carolinians that will fall further behind. Quite frankly, this is not acceptable.”

Today, while experiencing explosive growth in diversity, size, and economic activity, North Carolina is experiencing a skills-gap that puts the state at risk:

  • 67-percent of jobs require a postsecondary degree or high-quality credential, but only 49-percent of North Carolinians between the ages of 25 and 44 have completed that level of education.
  • More than 80-percent of high school graduates do not meet all college readiness benchmarks, and nearly half meet none of those benchmarks. 50-percent of North Carolina employers indicate they are not able to hire the workers they need, citing a lack of employability skills (65%), technical skills (49%), and overall education (43%).
  • For every 100 9th graders there are 86 high school graduates, of whom 72 express postsecondary intentions, 67 enroll in postsecondary institutions, 51 return for a second year, and 34 end up earning a degree within six years.
  • Only 24 percent of North Carolinians agree that all students receive the same quality of education regardless of their background.

“For a competitive, strong, and ready North Carolina, we have work to do,” said Peter Hans, president of the North Carolina Community College System and myFutureNC co-chair. “It’s true, we are seeing new ideas and new collaborations blossom across our state. And, that’s exciting. But we need to find ways to fully align, duplicate and replicate what works, and be willing to set aside things that don’t. We must focus on eliminating systemic barriers to achievement and attainment, prepare students for work, provide options for ongoing skills expansion, and help North Carolinians maintain a fulfilling, sustained quality of life.”

According to the “Call to Action” document released today, there are four proposed focus areas to achieve this: Education & Workforce Alignment; Access to Lifelong Educational Opportunities; Preparation for Education, Career, & Life; and Comprehensive Support Systems. These focus areas are supported by 16 cross-sector priorities, and proposed metrics to follow progress.

“We have heard the urgent call from North Carolina’s business leaders and industry. And, if we don’t act, our state and our people will be left behind,” Jenkins said. “Today, I challenge each and every stakeholder to pay attention to this call for action. Take the time to learn more, adopt the goal and identify what you can do to drive this work — and our state — forward.”

In the coming months, myFutureNC will be traveling throughout North Carolina, helping to convene leaders from every sector to unite behind this goal and commit to collaboration moving forward.

“There’s a lot to be done between now and 2030. But, there’s nothing more important we can accomplish together,” Hans said.