How to expand educational opportunities?

ILLINOIS - ILLINOIS -- Members of the Higher Education Commission on the Future Workforce met Tuesday to develop ideas of addressing educational needs. They want to focus on keeping students in college and helping them gain a well-rounded education; not just one specific field.

Josh Sprague decided a few months ago to change career paths to support his family.

"I didn't want to do retail the rest of my life, so I decided to go into the nursing field since the medical field was such progress coming up."

He wanted a career where he could apply the skills he learned in his undergrad toward nursing. Sprague says it's not the case for everyone.

"Option to do something that's actually going to support me. A lot of people are against education right now on some fields because there's no jobs in that field."

Dr. James Applegate, executive director of Illinois Board of Higher Education says one of the newly formed commission's goals is to allow students a more well-rounded education and providing them a better chance of getting a job.

"Thousands and thousands of jobs standing open in Illinois because employers can't find people with college degrees and credentials to fill them."

Sprague says, during his undergrad, he noticed not too many students were given the opportunity to widen their fields.

"I wish that maybe more undergrads originally would require different fields instead of narrowing down their own scope."

Another focus of the commission is to get adults back in school.

"We're not making much progress compared to other states to get adults coming back and we got to have those adults get back."

Sprague says, if school was more affordable, more would attend.

"In the long run, if it's easier to go back, people would go back to fill jobs that are being left vacant because no one can take those opportunities."

The commission says, by analyzing each region's needs, it allows communities to build a partnership between employers and colleges to bring students back.

The commission will meet three more times this year to develop strategies to help more students get degrees.


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