Five-Year Plan Aims To Educate Young Adults

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The state Department of Education has launched a new program to get business, labor unions, education officials and others to help make a dent in the state's poor national ranking.

The program is called Nevada's Statewide 18-24 Year Old Credential Initiative. It's a five-year plan to increase the number of young adults with basic education skills by 10 percent per year.

"This initiative is a key to so much in Nevada," said Jack McLaughlin, state superintendent of public instruction. "It's a key to our dropout rate, it's key to developing a strong work force, and it's key to attracting new business into the state."

The decision came after state officials saw the statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau last year. They learned that Nevada ranked second in the nation for the most young adults without a high school diploma.

More than 59,000 Nevadans age 18 to 24 are without such a basic education certificate, exceeded only by neighboring Arizona.

The state is spending $21.5 million this year on two programs to combat education problems for all adults. Most of the funding for the programs comes from the state, with about $4.2 million provided by the federal government.

McLaughlin said there are waiting lists for these programs, and more needs to be done now. Because state money remains scarce, the new initiative aims at winning financial support from business and labor groups.

Former Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa, chairwoman of the oversight committee for the initiative, said businesses can get involved initially by encouraging their human resource departments to refer applicants to adult education providers.

Employers can also provide resources to fund the programs and offer incentives to employees who participate in them. Incentives can include giving paid time for attendance, allowing for alternate work schedules so employees can attend and assisting with transportation or child care costs.

But Del Papa said she is also seeking support from Nevada's Congressional delegation for funding to expand adult education programs.

"As our state continues its spiraling growth pattern, it is of utmost importance that our work force is educated and possesses the skills necessary to meet the employment demands of our existing businesses and new businesses we attract," she wrote in a letter to employers.