Statistics show obtaining a higher education degree is more important than ever.
Whether it’s done by attending a four-year university, community college or tech school, good-paying jobs are hard to come by without having some kind of degree in hand as employers seek a skilled and trained work force.
Graduate America Priority 1, or more commonly referred to as GAP1, plans to help fill a shortage of qualified employees and encourage more people to attend college.
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, only 40 percent of U.S. adults are deemed work force ready, dropping America from first in the world to 12th when compared to other countries. Canada has the highest percentage at 55.8 percent, followed by South Korea and Russian Federation, both at 55.5 percent, and Japan at 53.5 percent.
“We are sliding in the wrong direction,” remarked Jim Gates, who spearheaded an effort to form a local Warren County GAP1 franchise.
GAP1 is a community-based, all-volunteer program designed to increase higher education degree rates. Formed by Ed Watkins and former Wentzville Mayor Paul Lambi, the St. Charles County-based program is targeted at the 40,000,000 American adults who never pursued a degree or who possess some college education but lack degrees, according to the GAP1 website.
It is somewhat tied with a nationwide initiative announced by President Barack Obama a couple of years ago to be “work force ready by 2020.” As part of the plan, Obama set a goal to have 800,000 new degree holders each year.
Upon learning of GAP1’s existence, Gates said he was immediately interested in having a local franchise formed to help Warren County residents. So in the past several months, he reached out to qualified residents interested in helping the cause by volunteering their time as coaches.
Locally, Gates said the goal is to have 84 more Warren County residents obtain college degrees by 2020.
According to GAP1 leaders, 60 percent of jobs in the nation require a degree, yet only 40 percent of the work force has one. There is also an estimated $1 million difference in lifetime income between high school and college graduates.
“If you fill the gap, you help your nation, your county and above all you help yourself,” Gates said.
In March, local GAP1 coaches met with a group of interested Warrenton High School juniors to get the program under way. Gates said the Wright City R-II School District has agreed to support the program once school resumes in August and attempts are being made to involve Liberty Christian Academy as well.
While the franchise’s focus is on high school students, the program is also open to adults interested in obtaining a higher education degree.
“We can take care of our own residents,” Gates said.
The volunteer coaches, many who have a professional background in education, will meet with the students from time to time to offer assistance. The coaches provide resources to prepare for college or find other avenues that may be more appealing for some, such as those attending a tech school.
Positive developments have already surfaced. Two people Gates is mentoring and coaching are enrolled in classes at East Central College and Lindenwood University. A training manual created by Gates also has been adopted by GAP1.
Gates is thankful for the commitment to the new group by his higher education coaches who are volunteering their time to assist local residents. Besides Gates and his wife Carrie, other coaches are Jerry Dyer, Ann Edwards, Pam Frazier, Angie Hilbert, Bob Hysong, Gregg Klinginsmith, Cathy Pelts, Teresa Scott, Jan Sutherland, Jim Zara and Donna Davis. Angela Herbel serves as a coach’s assistant.
“I have the people who understand the need for it,” Gates said. “It’s Warren County people helping Warren County people.”
To learn more about the local GAP1 franchise or to inquire about becoming a coach or a student, contact Gates at 314-323-5321 or email email@example.com.