Adults Recognize the Need for Lifelong Learning

The employment market is changing. Adults now realize that to remain marketable, lifelong learning is the order of the day.

Pearson, a publisher of textbooks and educational assessments, has released results of a survey it conducted of adults age 25—64.

Some key findings:

  • 72% of those surveyed say they will need additional education to remain in their field in the next five years
  • 68% are likely to enroll in a degree or certificate program
  • 46% say their goal is to improve their earning potential

Many of these adults, perhaps most, will be able to meet their goals by pursuing degrees or credentials.

Shaky Foundation

Early last year, the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education of the U.S. Department of Education issued a report, Making Skills Everyone’s Business: A Call to Transform Adult Learning in the United States.

According to the report, 36 million adults in the U.S. have low skills in literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving in a technologically rich environment; 46 million struggle with numeracy.

Compared with other countries, the U.S. has a high percentage of low-skilled adults, 17.5%–higher than Japan’s (which, at 4.9% is the lowest percentage), Finland, the Netherlands, Canada, and others; but lower than Italy’s (the highest percentage at 27.7%), Spain, France, and Poland.

It’s interesting to note that the two countries with the lowest percentages of low-skilled adults also have the strongest K-12 school systems: Japan and Finland.

In other words, a shaky K-12 foundation has the potential to reverberate throughout a person’s life.

Serious Consequences

Maybe low skills wouldn’t matter if they didn’t affect life outcomes, but they do. Higher skill attainment is linked to “improved economic and social outcomes, such as better employment, earnings, and health; social mobility; and greater civic engagement.”

Unfortunately, low skills tend to cross generations. According to the report, the children of parents who are less educated are much more likely to become low-skilled adults themselves. Disturbingly, the majority of those with low skills have completed high school. More than 60% of low-skilled adults are graduates of American high schools.

Of course, low-skilled adults are low wage earners: 40% have earnings in the bottom fifth of the wage spectrum and more than half are black or Hispanic.

Although this presents a bleak picture, the report includes several strategies for what it calls upskilling–raising the skill attainment of low-skilled Americans. The other good news is that low-skilled adults are motivated to increase their skills; many are already in education or training programs.

To read the full report go here.