Barriers to Employment: Education and Training

In the first of our series addressing barriers to employment, based on findings from The Opportunity Collaborative’s recent report, we turn to issues related to education and training.  Many job seekers surveyed in the report were unable to get a job because they lack basic math or reading skills, are not comfortable with a computer, or have never been taught how to behave professionally at work.  The unemployment rate for job seekers without a high school degree in the Baltimore region is 20.4%, compared to 9.7% overall in the Baltimore region.

41% of the 1,000 job seekers surveyed for the report indicated that they have been laid off, and need to develop new skills or training in order to be employable.  However, 49% said the cost of obtaining a degree or training is too high.  Furthermore, the vast majority of jobs that pay a salary sufficient to support a family require at least some college education.  The future looks bleak in that respect as well: 53% of the jobs projected to be created by 2020 will require more than a high school diploma.

Current policies further impede access to education.  A student 21 or younger, enrolled in a GED program, will not be counted towards a school’s full-time enrollment (FTE) in Maryland, and therefore, the school will not receive funding for that student.  Additionally, recipients of TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) are discouraged from making progress in their career or education, because they will make too much to qualify for benefits, but not enough to make up for the difference in benefits.  Furthermore, the state loses tax revenue from high school dropouts – almost $200 million in tax revenue each year in Maryland, according to a 2008 study,” The High Cost of Maryland’s Dropout Rate,” referenced in the Collaborative’s report.

The report suggests making Adult Basic Education (ABE) and GED courses more available and affordable, improving the programs, and thereby increasing completion rates.  Specifically, allowing high schools to count GED students aged 21 or younger, and therefore receive funding, would provide the schools funds and incentive to strengthen the program.  Another option is adopting an adult charter school system like the one in D.C., which concurrently provides job training, making it more appealing to returning students.

Besides the benefits to individuals, and to the state, education positively impacts communities.  Individuals with more education are able to obtain better paying jobs, which means they have more time and financial resources to invest in their children and neighborhoods.  They also gain new skills and knowledge to contribute to neighborhoods, such as construction skills, improved math skills which could be used to balance a budget or to plot out a neighborhood garden, or confidence in reading and writing, in order to write letters to government representatives.  Education increases opportunities for adults as well as children, encourages a culture of lifelong learning, and promotes confidence, leadership, and engagement in neighborhood communities.

What ideas do you have?  Let us or the Opportunity Collaborative know.  Contact us to schedule a presentation for your community association.  This is your opportunity to directly impact the Opportunity Collaborative’s Regional Workforce Development Plan, and knock down barriers to employment in our community.


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Elise Bruner

Elise Bruner

This article was written by Elise Bruner and edited by Steve Holt. Click here to meet our writing team.
Elise Bruner

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