As a nation, we face the critical challenge of how to best prepare workers — especially young people — for jobs in the 21st century workplace and global economy. (See our recent blog post: “Workforce Readiness: The Link Between Education and Economic Competitiveness.”) And policy makers, business leaders, educators and others are focusing on solutions.

The National Governors Association, for example, has launched an initiative, Complete to Compete. Chaired by West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin, Complete to Compete “focuses on increasing the number of students in the United States who complete college degrees and certificates and improving the productivity of the country’s higher education institutions.”

Here’s from the news release announcing the initiative:

“The nation has fallen from first to twelfth in the world in the number of students who complete degrees. Now, we’re faced with a generation of students that is projected to have lower educational attainment than their parents,” said Gov. Manchin.

“This slide continues at a time when the economy demands more educated workers and Americans increasingly look to higher education as the path to economic success,” continued Gov. Manchin. “My initiative will bring together governors, higher education executive officers, campus leaders and corporate CEOs to make marked improvements in college completion and productivity and get our country back on track to produce a successful workforce for the future.”

In addition to raising awareness about the need to increase college completion and productivity, Complete to Compete aims to create a set of common higher education completion and productivity measures that governors and higher education leaders can utilize to monitor state progress and compare performance to other states and between institutions. A report, Complete to Compete: Common College Completion Metrics, was released during the session. It will be followed in the coming weeks by a technical guide for states.

Concerning the completion metrics, Manchin says:

“As states face the worst economic crisis in modern history, we must collaborate to develop common performance measurements and take concrete steps to increase completion rates within our available resources. From transforming first-year coursework to implementing performance funding, it is up to states and institutions to create policies that can improve degree attainment and more efficiently use the dollars invested by states and students.”

Corporate Voices for Working Families believes that obtaining postsecondary education is critical for the workforce of the future and for America’s economic competitiveness. We are currently researching many Learn and Earn models in which businesses form partnerships with local community colleges and other education providers to help younger workers work while getting their postsecondary education. Additional information, research and publications involving the full range of our workforce readiness work are available on the Corporate Voices website.