America remains the world's dominant superpower, but leaders and educators are worried by trends that show the competitiveness of the American worker continues to fall.
Cynthia Edwards is the vice president of institutional advancement for Georgia Piedmont Technical College, formerly known as DeKalb Tech, and her role is to spread the word about an institution dedicated to helping Georgians get job and Georgia remain competitive in recruiting industry.
She spoke to the Kiwanis Club of Covington Tuesday and shared some sobering facts that highlight the need for continued, quality education.
The U.S. has fallen to seventh in innovation, according to the World Economic Forum's 2011 Global Innovation Index; the county's graduation rate was only the 21st best in the world in 2009, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; and the country's high school sophomores ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math, according to the Programme for International Student Assessment.
In Georgia, 1.3 million adults do not have a high school diploma or GED, and the majority of Georgia's counties have more than 35 percent of its residents have less than a high school diploma, while more than 500,000 students drop out of high school each year, Edwards said.
At the same time, the existing job market has been hindered by jobs heading overseas through globalization, jobs being replaced by technological advancements and jobs being lost and never hired back due to the financial crisis.
The result is a huge challenge for secondary and post-secondary education. Students are performing poorer at the exact time the job market is demanding excellence.
One of the ways the technical system helps students, Edwards said, is by allowing them to spend two years getting up to speed without piling up large debt that often accompanies a four-year university education.
Edwards said many students needed remedial training because they couldn't pass basic college entrance exams; 64 percent of all Georgia Piedmont students require learning support assistance of some form.
Another way Georgia Piedmont and other technical and community colleges attack joblessness is by working with businesses to match up jobs to specific curriculum. The state's Work Ready program is used by industries to identify workers who have the core skills needed for manufacturing and other jobs.
That fits into the future of the job market, as the Edwards said the Department of Labor expects 80 percent of jobs to require post-secondary education, but only 20 percent of all jobs to require a four-year degree.
Another way all schools are trying to make students more competitive is by getting them more college credits in high schools. Through the dual enrollment program, a high school student could technically get an associate degree by the time they graduated high school.
That education would put them on the fast track for a more successful future. These efforts will be further enhanced by the opening of the Newton College and Career Academy.
Edwards said Georgia Piedmont has had a lot of success placing its graduates, as 98 percent of graduates find job placement somewhere, while between 65 and 80-plus percent find a job in their field, though that can also include a related, a four-year college trip and other categories.
In CNN's hour-long "Restoring the American Dream," top corporate executives said American workers need more education, more training and re-training. The goal is clear; the path forward is less so, but two-year college officials believe they're a big part of that path.