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Encouraging DSM USA Students Down the Many Paths to Success

Alternative Education Opportunities in DSM USA

November 7, 2017

Exploring Alternative Education Options

For many students, for many reasons, college may not be an option. Yet, many alternative paths exist that can lead to well-paying jobs and long-term financial stability. As stakeholders at businesses, schools, nonprofits, and the community, we have an opportunity to help all students understand their options and support them in taking the next step toward a better future.

The Excellence in Education Summit looks to explore how we can help students and the existing workforce receive the education and skills needed to be successful in their lives. Here are four facts to consider as we approach this important topic for our community:

1. 34,000 adults ages 18 and older in Greater Des Moines (DSM) do not have a high school diploma (U.S. Census).

Although graduation rates have been rising in DSM, many students are still not graduating from high school – and many adults still do not have a diploma. Without a diploma, many adults will struggle to find jobs that pay enough to achieve financial stability. A high school dropout, throughout their lifetime, earns an average of $700,000 less than a high school graduate, according to a 2016 study by the National Center for Education Statistics.

2. Middle-skill jobs will account for an estimated 24% of job growth from 2010 to 2025 (Iowa: Workforce and Trends through 2025).

Employers cannot find enough workers to fill middle-skill jobs. Just over half of all jobs in DSM require some postsecondary education up to an associate’s degree, and only 32% of the workforce has the right skills for these jobs (Iowa Workforce Development, 2015). The top 10 fastest-growing, middle-skill jobs – including occupational therapy assistant, industrial machinery mechanic, and carpenter – pay an average yearly salary of $50,000 (Iowa Workforce Development, Iowa Wage Report, 2017).

3. Iowa schools have one counselor for every 423 students (Iowa School Counselors and College and Career Readiness, 2016).

This student-to-counselor ratio is 69% below the recommended 250:1 ratio. Counselors can help students evaluate their options and identify the right path after high school, but many counselors may not have the capacity to fully support every student.

4. We can help students make the connection between school and the next step in their lives.

We all have an opportunity to help students find direction and purpose that can lead them to graduate and take the next step. Research-based recommendations include giving students opportunities to explore real-world activities, supporting policies that require all students to have personalized learning plans, and expanding apprenticeships to help students earn while they learn.

All of these opportunities and more will be explored in-depth during the Excellence in Education Summit. To learn more about United Way of Central Iowa’s work in education, click here

EDGE (Education Drives our Greater Economy) is an initiative of Capital Crossroads: A Vision for Greater Des Moines (DSM) and the region focused on improving education attainment from early childhood learning through life-long learning. Under the leadership of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, EDGE aims to ensure that 75% of Central Iowa working-age adults have postsecondary degrees, certificates or other credentials by 2025 that align with workforce needs. 

Elisabeth Buck

Elisabeth Buck joined United Way of Central Iowa as the chief community impact officer in January, 2011, and led the community initiatives in the areas of Education, Income and Health for six years before succeeding Mary Sellers as president. Prior to joining United Way, she served as Iowa Governors Tom Vilsack and Chet Culver's deputy chief of staff until her appointment as Governor Culver's director of Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) in 2007. At United Way of Central Iowa, Elisabeth's work focuses on advancing United Way's mission of improving lives by leading community mobilization and United Way resources for attainment of the Goals for 2020 in Education, Income and Health. Elisabeth and her husband, Tim, have two children.