Working poor and low education go hand-in-hand

Education Characteristics

Earlier this week we shared some very surprising news about the homeless population we serve: we told you that many are working and yet are unable to obtain economic security. They are part of a larger population across the United States: the working poor, those who are employed but are still suffering from inability to pay for basic necessities such as shelter, food, health care, child care, taxes, and transportation. We used our discussion to share some myths and facts about the working poor, and today want to continue our topic by discussing the link between the working poor and low education.

The Working Poor Families Project released a study titled “Still Working Hard, Still Falling Short” that details many of the little-known trends and facts about the working poor. The report notes that one of the greatest contributors to low-income working families’ economic success is the level of education they have received. Tied closely to this is how well that education actually prepared the participants to obtain and excel in a job requiring skilled work.

On the report website, The Working Poor Families Project aptly summarizes some of the education-related difficulties faced by the working poor:

• Almost one-half of all job openings require more than a high school education, yet as noted in the Report of the National Commission on Adult Literacy, 88 million adult workers are not prepared for these positions.
• Furthermore, 25 million of these workers do not have a high school degree or its equivalent.
• At the same time, combined federal and state government resources for adult education programs serve approximately 2.5 million participants annually, only one-tenth of the need.

    If education and job training are as imperative as this study implies, there is no doubt that we must improve opportunities to receive skilled training and an education. At Coalition for the Homeless, we are fortunate to be able to provide opportunities for both. You can learn more about the on-site Orange County Public Schools LifeStrides Program (an adult education classroom) and Goodwill Industries job training program by visiting our website’s Partners page.

    We know these two programs will not eliminate the difficulties faced by the millions of working poor not involved in our programs, but we are certainly addressing the issue through the hundreds of adults that take advantage of these programs each year. Our goal is to produce educated, competent adults with the necessary skills to create a new life for their families. Perhaps someday, through our efforts and those of other agencies across the nation, the idea of a population that works hard and is still unable to achieve self-sufficiency will be a fading memory.