Teacher Brandon Macy smiles as he and Veronica G. González talk during evening classes at McDowell Education Center. Veronica drives from Seymour every day for classes. Thursday, September 21, 2017 Carla Clark | For The Republic

Employers more than ever need an educated, skilled workforce to fill their jobs and perform the needed tasks. The problem is the insufficient number of adults with advanced degrees and certifications to fill those roles.

Fortunately, organizations exist that are working on this problem. Locally, it’s the Columbus-based Community Education Coalition, which has been working for 20 years to align and integrate the community learning system, economic development and quality of life. For the past 10 years, its Economic Opportunities through Education (EcO) Network has focused on the areas of advanced manufacturing, health care and educational attainments in Bartholomew and nine other southeast Indiana counties by connecting key stakeholders.

On the national level, the Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation, an independent, private foundation focused on increasing learning opportunities beyond high school, has been a driving force for greater educational attainment.

Recently, the missions of these organizations aligned as Lumina Foundation designated Columbus/Southeast Indiana as one of its 17 national Talent Hubs, awarding $350,000 to the Community Education Coalition for an attainment initiative. The coalition will use the funding to increase attainment among the Latino adult and low-income adults populations that have no postsecondary degrees or credentials.

Talent Hubs are communities that organize and align themselves around goals that lead to an increase in postsecondary degrees and certifications that are earned. Lumina recognized these areas and their backbone organizations — such as the Community Education Coalition — in an effort to accelerate its goal of 60 percent of Americans having postsecondary degrees or credentials by 2025.

This designation and grant will be a difference-maker in helping adults regionally who have not gone on to college increase their education levels, and in the process improve their employment opportunities and income.

The need for this is great. The Latino population is the largest growing demographic group in the region, and the postsecondary attainment rate for Latinos ages 25 and older is significantly lower than the region’s adult population overall. Also, low-income adults represent about 32 percent of the region’s total population — more than 103,000 adults.

Having organizations locally and nationally sharing the same mission and working together, as the Community Education Coalition and the Lumina Foundation are, is encouraging because increasing educational attainment is an issue that has significant, long-term ramifications for communities and their residents.