If companies care about having high performing managers, they should become involved in supporting high quality K-12 and post-secondary institutions. They should care deeply about government policies and legislation that affect education for all students. Success in the workplace is related directly to success in college and success in college is related directly to success in K-12 schools. Managers who cannot read and write at college level or don’t understand the math needed in automated, computer-driven, 21st century companies will not be successful and, worse, will be a detriment to their organizations. Managers today need the kind of critical thinking and creative problem solving that one can learn in good educational institutions. Businesses need schools and colleges to help more people complete a post-secondary education with the basic knowledge and skills for the modern workplace.
The research supports this emphasis on completion. Lou Glazer, President of Michigan Future, Inc., reports a high correlation between the percentage of college graduates in a region and the vitality of the economy in that region. Speaking of Michigan, he writes:
Human capital is the asset that matters most to knowledge-based enterprises. Michigan’s fundamental economic challenge is that we rank 34th in the proportion of adults with a four-year degree. States without concentrations of talent will have great difficulty retaining or attracting knowledge-based enterprises and are unlikely to be the place where new knowledge-based enterprises are created.
In a more recent blog post, Glazer writes:
…all the evidence is that the premium for college attainment is increasing. The gap in pay between college educated adults and those without has been growing for decades. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that life time earnings of those with a four year degree is a million dollars more than for those with a high school degree.
And job growth is coming in those industries where college educated workers are most concentrated. From 1990 to 2007 job growth in what we call high education sectors (predominantly health care; education; finance and insurance; information; and professional and technical services) was twice that in the rest of the economy (primarily manufacturing, hospitality, transportation, construction, retail and temporary services). And during the Great Recession those trends accelerated. Of the 8 million lost jobs, 7.6 million came in the low education attainment sectors.
President Obama has made college graduation a high priority of his administration because of the evidence that connects education to jobs. This week Vice President Biden announced an initiative to reward states and schools that are doing something significant to increase their graduation rates. The administration has set a goal of 8 million additional college graduates by 2020.
The College Board has set a goal of 55 % of the 25 to 34 age group achieving a post-secondary degree by 2025. They write:
The United States ranks fourth out of 36 nations in terms of postsecondary attainment for citizens
One can quibble with the notion of a causal relationship between a post-secondary education (one-year certificate, two-year associates degree, or four-year bachelors degree) and an increase in jobs and income. It is clear, however, that there is a significant relationship and, given this, it seems to be in the best interests of all of our institutions (business, nonprofits, government) to encourage and support post-secondary education for all students.