Closing the skills gap and reskilling the workforce will require sweeping changes to our educational system WorkingNation’s Jane Oates said at the ACT Policy Platforms launch in Washington D.C.

Oates, who serves on WorkingNation’s executive committee, spoke at the ACT-hosted panel on improving workforce development, the subject of one of four updated policy platforms released by the Iowa-based testing organization on Tuesday. These platforms contain recommendations for all education levels to ensure that students and adult learners have the workforce-aligned skills for new and emerging jobs.

“In the 21st Century, no one in the United States can stop learning,” said Oates.

The panel, “Aligning our Education and Workforce Systems: A Look Ahead” also included Chauncy Lennon of JPMorgan Chase, Martha Kanter of the College Promise Campaign, Deb Delisle of ASCD and was moderated by Andy Rotherham of Bellwether Education Partners. The panelists touched on the problems affecting students and employers in the current job market.

Loving the great panel discussion – thanks @DebDelisle, @MarthaKanter, @ChauncyLennon, @Oates_jane, and of course moderator @arotherham! #ACTPolicyPlatforms pic.twitter.com/ZapB8Q2bLa

— Shannon Hayes (@shannonkhayes) January 23, 2018

Oates noted that college costs are “out of control” and the current scale of solutions are not enough to meet the demand for skilled workers. She suggested that higher education must become more inclusive and affordable.

“We need to articulate that post-secondary education is an option for everyone,” Oates said.

Lennon reiterated the problem of student debt and said that a majority of students are working to finance their education, but the amount of debt is growing. This debt, now totaling $1.4 trillion, has become the second-largest category of debt in the nation behind housing.

With public perception of the value of a four-year degree overshadowing other viable training pathways, such as vocational training or Career and Technical Education (CTE), Lennon remarked on the difficulty in advertising their value. “Our challenge is saying that college is a great thing, but there are other things to do,” said Lennon. He also encouraged more research into how young people and families make decisions about higher education.

RELATED STORY: Shaping the Future Workforce – Chauncy Lennon

Oates said that technology will open more minds to the promise of CTE. New and emerging programs at the community college level are showing career pathways in industries facing critical labor shortages. California Community Colleges recently announced a fully-online community college which will be targeted for adult learners looking to gain industry-aligned skills and certifications.

@oates_jane talks at #ACTPolicyPlatforms about how technology will be the great equalizer in the CTE world to enable kids in fully understanding the digital world. pic.twitter.com/U28FRG3yvV

— Cindy Cisneros (@CindyCisneros8) January 23, 2018

To attract more nontraditional learners to consider acquiring new skills, Oates suggested that there should be more attention paid to the stories of those who have found success without going to a four-year school.

For another look at the ACT Policy Platforms event and for more quotes from Jane, Click Here.

To learn more about ACT’s updated Policy Platforms: Click Here.

To read Jane’s blog for ACT on the future of workforce development: Click Here.

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