Now, 62 years later, only 20 percent of America’s workers are unskilled.
Dr. Andy Tompkins, Kansas Board of Regents president and chief executive officer, provided those statistics at the First Friday Forum to illustrate how postsecondary education in Kansas is evolving to meet the needs of an ever-increasing skilled workforce. He told the forum audience Friday morning at Washburn Towers, 526 S. Main St., Ottawa, that the Board of Regents is working with the state’s higher-education institutions across a broad spectrum of vocational technology, community colleges and four-year colleges and universities to determine what skills Kansans need to fit today’s job market.
“We need to honor all work,” Tompkins said. “Every job is important. We have more access points to higher education than ever before, and we are focused on getting people through the system with the skills they need.”
As part of making it easier for Kansans to get their postsecondary education, Tompkins said, the Kansas Board of Regents in June approved 17 general education college courses that will transfer among the public higher education institutions. A list of approved courses is available on the Board of Regents’ website: www.kansasregents.org
Depending on the credit hours taken and awarded, students may transfer 55 to 59 credit hours, the Regents’ website said.
“This is a huge breakthrough,” Tompkins said. “It doesn’t matter where you take one of these approved courses, they are transferable to any of the state’s public higher education institutions.”
The number of Kansans seeking a postsecondary education has grown tremendously through the past six decades, Tompkins said.
Today, more than 250,000 Kansans are taking postsecondary courses across the education spectrum, including vocational, community colleges and private and public universities, with about 40,000 Kansans earning postsecondary degrees each year, he said.
Tompkins, who also sits on the board of directors for the Kansas Health Foundation, is the former dean of the college of education at Pittsburg State University.
Tompkins now leads the governing board of the state’s six universities and the coordinating board for the state’s 32 higher education institutions as president and CEO of the Board of Regents. Tompkins also served as an associate professor in the department of education leadership and policy studies at the University of Kansas and as the Kansas Department of Education’s commissioner of education from 1996 to 2005.
Tompkins cited two prestigious accomplishments for the University of Kansas in Lawrence and Kansas State University in Manhattan as examples of the kind of work taking place in higher education in the state.
“The University of Kansas Cancer Center’s designation in July as a National Cancer Institute Cancer Center is a big deal, because patients will not have to travel so far to clinics in places like Rochester, N.Y., to get treatment,” he said.
KU’s pharmacy school is renowned for its research in developing medicines to treat cancer, Tompkins said.
The National Bio and Agri-Defense facility under construction at Kansas State University in Manhattan will serve as one of the country’s most important research facilities and will bring hundreds of jobs to the state, he said. The building, which is scheduled to be operational by 2015, will carry a price tag of more than $1 billion, Tompkins said.
Tompkins said it’s an exciting time for higher education in Kansas.
“We have graduates who are in their 80s, and we have kids in the ninth and 10th grade taking college classes,” he said.
Tompkins said the Kansas Board of Regents is working to make sure the state’s postsecondary schools are responding appropriately to the needs of the marketplace.
Doug Carder is senior writer for The Herald. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org