As employers, we represent Idaho with all its differences – coming from many geographies and communities, with unique cultural and political characteristics. Some of us run small businesses, some large. In many ways we couldn’t be more unalike. But we are all employers, and we all agree on one thing: The educational status quo does not adequately serve our children, our communities or our state’s economic competitiveness.
Idaho Business for Education is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of business leaders committed to improving education in Idaho. Our goal is an education system that prepares graduates for success in an increasingly technical and demanding workplace – one that demands new skills and capabilities. We strongly support the State Board of Education’s ambitious goal that by 2020, 60 percent of Idaho’s 25- to 34-year-olds have a degree or certification they can use in the rapidly changing workplace.
The IBE recently prepared a “Field Guide” to public education in Idaho. It compiles a wide range of studies and rankings from the government and respected nonprofit organizations.
The guide paints a sobering picture. Idaho continues to rank near the bottom nationally in a wide range of critical measures:
• Idaho ranks 47th among all states in the proportion of students who graduate from high school on time and go directly to college.
• Of those students, Idaho ranks 46th in the proportion of students who return for their second year of college.
• Of the students who do return for a second year, Idaho ranks 41st in students who graduate within 150 percent of program time.
Clearly we need to change these outcomes if we are to meet the state’s 60 percent goal.
Consider this: Forty years ago, only 27 percent of the nation’s 93 million workers were educated beyond high school. By 2007 the work force had exploded to 154 million workers, but 59 percent had education beyond high school. The total number of jobs grew by 63 million, but the number of jobs held by people with no post-secondary education fell by two million.
The message is clear. All net job growth over the past four decades was generated by positions requiring at least some post-secondary education. Today, education beyond high school is essentially a prerequisite for success in the workplace. It is also critical to producing our future entrepreneurs and community leaders.
We have a problem. Today, precision manufacturers can’t find workers with appropriate technical skills. High-tech companies have to recruit out of state – or leave the state. Hospitals and rural clinics lack trained medical staff. The evidence is all around us.
Action is needed urgently if we are to ensure that our children have good jobs and our businesses have quality employees. We strongly encourage state policymakers and education stakeholders to work together to reverse current educational trends and preserve the American Dream in Idaho. We support the governor’s task force and are eager to see its recommendations.
Every student must be shown a path to success in an increasingly competitive global workplace, because their future – and the future of Idaho’s economy – depends upon it.
Scott Gipson is president of Caxton Printers in Caldwell. Park Price is CEO of the Bank of Idaho in Idaho Falls, and Judy Meyer is a partner in Parkwood Business Properties in Coeur d’Alene. Idaho Business for Education is a not-for-profit organization based in Boise.