Throughout the South, a growing number of low-income students are graduating high school eager to take the next step in their careers only to find their pathway to higher education hindered by rising tuition and college costs, predatory for-profit colleges, and unanticipated disparities in college completion. Meanwhile, states throughout the region report massive talent shortages in manufacturing and STEM-related careers. Manufacturers expect an estimated shortfall of 2.4 million employees within the sector over the next decade.
There is both a necessity to provide an alternative pathway to the postsecondary option of low-income students’ choice as well as an immediate need for highly skilled, well-trained leaders to fill these lucrative career opportunities and become industry leaders. As a result, the Southern Education Foundation views skills training as a complement rather than a replacement to higher education, ensuring that all students, particularly students of color and low-income students, receive the opportunity-rich lives they deserve.