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60 Forward: Wisconsin's collaborative education attainment goal

WITC President John Will speaks to Wisconsin state representatives, business leaders and community members during the April 13 60 Forward event held at WITC. Photo courtesy of WITC

Leaders from the three Wisconsin postsecondary systems, with support from the Lumina Foundation, came together with state representatives, business leaders and community members to kick off the 60 Forward attainment goal initiative at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (WITC), New Richmond campus on April 13.

The 60 Forward attainment goal strives to increase the number of high school graduates who continue their education. The goal is by 2027, 60 percent of Wisconsin citizens aged 25-64 will hold some type of postsecondary credential — a diploma, degree or other high value credential. The rate of individuals seeking higher education is tied to key economic indicators, including workforce participation and earnings.

Wisconsin is one of 12 states to receive a Lumina Foundation grant to work towards achieving the attainment goal. As the nation's largest private foundation focused solely on increasing Americans' success in higher education, the Lumina Foundation is committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. Their goal is to prepare people for informed citizenship and for success in a global economy. Wisconsin's success will lead to global success.

According to Ray Cross, president of the University of Wisconsin (UW) system, Wisconsin postsecondary systems must meet the needs of employers for a healthy local and state economy and "convince employers to seek an educated workforce and employees to seek education."

The postsecondary systems need to make education more affordable and support workers while being educated. Job openings are increasing due to expansion and replacement. Occupation growth and technology is driving the 62 percent of job openings which require higher education in Wisconsin (65 percent nationally).

WITC will be working with the attainment goal in the next strategic plan to ensure the needs of Wisconsin are met by providing life-long learning opportunities, especially to underserved populations.

"Promoting attainment is the right thing to do to achieve the dual benefit of helping individuals realize a brighter future, and ensuring that our region's employers have the skilled workforce needed to grow our economy," said WITC President John Will.

Wisconsin's current attainment average is 48.4 percent, which is above the national average of 46.9 percent. The average in the nine counties served by WITC is 37.9 percent. Conversations will begin with community, state and business leaders on how attainment goals can meet the future economic and workforce needs in the WITC service area and the state.