An important education goal has been set for the state of Hawaiʻi—55 by ’25, to increase the number of Hawaiʻi’s working age adults with a two- or four-year college degree to 55 percent by the year 2025.

“We need families, business leaders, community groups and the general public to pledge their support to help Hawaiʻi’s keiki and students to strive higher, and to earn a two- or four-year college degree, so that they are prepared for the best careers and a family sustaining wage,” said Karen Lee, the executive director of Hawaiʻi P–20 Partnerships for Education, which is spearheading the campaign.

Only 42 percent of Hawaiʻi’s adults hold a college degree according to the latest U.S. Census information, and a recent study by Georgetown University found that by 2018, 65 percent of the jobs in Hawaiʻi will require some college—an alarming 23 percent gap.

“This is a national imperative, this is an imperative for the state of Hawaiʻi, therefore, it is an imperative for the University of Hawaiʻi System,” said University of Hawaiʻi System Interim President David Lassner. “We take this extremely seriously. ”

group of people

From left to right, Kathryn Matayoshi, Hawaiʻi State Department of Education; John La Forgia, Hawaii Pacific Health; Karen Lee, Hawaiʻi P-20; Governor Neil Abercrombie; GG Weisenfeld, Executive Office on Early Learning; Richard Mizusawa, ASUH and David Lassner, University of Hawaii

Governor Neil Abercrombie and leaders in education, business and government spoke at a news conference at Honolulu Community College in January 2014 about the importance of strengthening the state’s workforce through education, from preschool to college.

“This is based on solid evidence of what works, how to do it. We know where we want to go, we know how to get there—the 55 by ’25 campaign is it,” said Governor Abercrombie.

The campaign is calling on parents to get more involved, government to expand and invest in more academic programs and initiatives and businesses to provide more internships and incentives for employees to complete college.

Local businesses have also joined the 55 by ’25 initiative including Hawaiian Airlines, Hawaiian Telcom, First Insurance Company of Hawaiʻi and Hawaiʻi Pacific Health, the largest private employer in the state that operates four hospitals including Kapiʻolani Medical Center for Women and Children and Straub Medical Center.

“These hospitals could not function without an educated workforce,” said John La Forgia, the senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Hawaiʻi Pacific Health. “We need doctors, nurses, lab technologists, x-ray technicians, a whole host of people, all of whom need to have specialized training, advanced training, advanced education to get what really are wonderful jobs.”

Efforts are already underway on all fronts. In recent years, enrollment is up 25 percent across the UH System and graduation rates are up 27 percent, thanks in part to efforts like the Hawaiʻi Graduation Initiative.

“That is, we are getting more students through more quickly than we are enrolling and that’s going to be essential for increasing degree output for the state,” said Lassner.

55 by ’25 is an initiative by Hawaiʻi P–20 Partnerships for Education, a statewide partnership led by the Executive Office on Early Learning, the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education and the University of Hawaiʻi. Go to 55 by ’25 website for more information.

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