"There are over 36 million Americans that are low skilled adults; half of the 36 million individuals are Black and Hispanic," said Brenda Dann Messier, assistant secretary for vocational and adult education,
"One third of the 36 million are under the age of 35," she added.
Delta State University was fourth of many stops that the U.S. Department of Education has made in an effort to help craft the skills of adults in the workplace.
The first three sessions were held in Philadelphia, Chicago and Redwood City, Calif., and one additional session will take place next week in Fall River, Mass.
The department is looking for the country’s best ideas and most creative thinkers from educators and policymakers, individuals, business, industry and labor leaders, researchers and data experts, and practitioners in adult education to weigh in on best strategies for improving foundation skills and workforce readiness.
The national plan is expected to be released in Spring 2014.
The project is titled "Time for the U.S. to Reskill? What the Survey of Adult Skills Says."
The report is the first in a decade that quantifies the population of low-skilled adults, identifying some 36 million adults ages 16-65 whose skills in reading, math, and problem-solving in a technology-rich environment fall far short of what’s needed to succeed in the 21st century workforce.
"We predict that there will be 2.6 million jobs available in this upcoming year. There is going to be a great need for a skilled work force," said Regional Director for Region 3 and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration Gene Caso.
In October, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development released the results of the Survey of Adult Skills – this survey that is part of the Program for International Assessment of Adult Competencies.
The assessment was conducted in 23 countries with nationally representative samples of adults ages 16 through 35.
In the United States, 5,000 individuals were surveyed to create a nationally represented dataset.
An additional 5,000 people will be surveyed in the United States for a supplement that will be added to the dataset in 2015.
The supplement groups include unemployed adults, ages 16 - 35; young adults, ages 16 -34; older adults, ages 66 – 74; and incarcerated adults, ages 16 – 74.
After conducting the survey, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Vocational and Adult Education found that there was a large population of low basic skills.
The data also indicated that the education system is not doing enough to help adults compete in the global market place.
The results were designed to help public, private, educational and philanthropic sectors work with a shared language and set of benchmarks to enhance cooperation around the development and implementation of economic.
"The news for the U.S. is not very good. Our basic skills in the U.S. are relatively weak. We rank third from the bottom in basic skills," said Messier.
According to Director of the U.S. Department of Education's Division of Adult Education and Literacy in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education Cheryl Keenan, adults from low educated families are ten times more likely to have low skills and adults with low skills are four times likely to have poor health which is two times the international average.
"The survey reminds us of how important it is to fix all of the factors and issues surrounding low or no skilled adults," said Keenan.
"Technology has a huge potential to improve the lives of our low skilled adults, but so many of them lack the necessary skills to use certain types of technology," she added.
Keenan said access to high quality adult education is both an economic necessity and moral imperative to help adults transitions from basic to more advanced skills and ultimately reach the top rungs of postsecondary training and credentials and fulfilling careers.
"Individuals who possess specific skills are highly rewarded in the U.S. Labor Market. We need to support our actions with evidence. We need to become a data driven society. If we fail to do anything to remedy the situation then there are going to be strong consequences," Keenan continued.
For more information about the sessions, please visit www.timetoreskill.org