There has been much discussion lately about the “skills gap,” or disconnect between available jobs and qualified workers. We cannot have a conversation about improving our country’s workforce without first talking about the long-term economic impact of low literacy. Individuals at the lowest literacy and numeracy levels have a higher rate of unemployment and lower wages than the national average. Low literacy costs the U.S. $225 billion or more each year in non-productivity in the workforce, crime, and loss of tax revenue due to unemployment.
HIGH SCHOOL EQUIVALENCY/CAREER AND COLLEGE READINESS
High school dropout rates are staggering. Every year, one in three young adults—more than 1.2 million—drop out of high school. Recent data shows that nearly 30 percent of adults with household incomes at or below the federal poverty line do not have a high school credential. The key to financial success is a viable career path and adequate education to seek meaningful, family-supporting wages. The value to our economy in additional wages and the reduction in costs for various support programs is estimated at more than $200 billion a year.
TECHNOLOGY AND DIGITAL LITERACY
To be successful in today’s digital world, literacy goes beyond being able to read and write. Digital literacy includes the ability to use technology such as computers, smartphones, and the Internet—and low-literate Americans are disproportionately finding themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide. We are now not only looking at equity of access to technology, but also at how people are able to use that access. As a result we now are referring to the digital use divide, emphasizing how important it is for adults to know how to use digital access to find information, apply for jobs or driver’s licenses, bank online, access social networks, and protect their personal information. While national efforts to address affordable access to information technology and broadband are being achieved, efforts to improve e-skills are struggling to keep pace with demand. Learning basic skills is essential for all adults.