During Gov. Rick Snyder’s State of the State address in January, he emphasized the importance of taking a P-20 approach to improving Michigan’s education system. The P-20 concept is gaining popularity nationwide, and refers to educational improvement undertaken as a holistic endeavor, from early childhood up through K-12 into postsecondary and the workforce.
It is important, of course, to make sure that the “20” side of the equation gets as much attention as the “P” side. While interventions in early childhood have been shown to be very effective in promoting K-12 and postsecondary success, there are many adult workers who do not have the occupational skills in demand in today’s labor market.
Upskilling these workers is crucial to our state’s economic strength. The skill level of a state’s workforce is one factor that job providers take into consideration when deciding where to locate their businesses, and individuals with occupational skills are in a better position to start up and maintain their own businesses.
A solid P-20 approach to education will make it easier for those who need to improve their basic skills (reading, math, English as a second language) to do so while concurrently acquiring occupational skills in such sectors as construction, health care or computer programming. Some community colleges in Michigan are currently teaming up with businesses and adult education providers to enable adult learners to do this.
The governor’s budget proposal released Thursday contained good news and bad news for adult learners and workers. On the upside, funding for community colleges was held harmless as was funding for adult education in the School Aid Fund. On the downside, the budget includes a 15 percent reduction for four-year colleges and universities. While this does not necessarily signal a backing away from commitment to the P-20 approach, it is important for Michigan to make a financial investment to build up the skills of its workforce to help get our economy moving again. This ought to be something that most liberals and conservatives can agree on.
— Peter Ruark