Lafayette, LA – Today, One Acadiana (1A) joined partners from across the region to launch “55 by 25,” an initiative with a goal of increasing the proportion of working adults in Acadiana with postsecondary degrees, certificates, or other high-value credentials to 55 percent by 2025. As of the most recent Census data, Acadiana’s current rate is about 40 percent.
1A launched the initiative at the inaugural “55 by 25 Summit,” held at the UL Lafayette Student Union. Dr. Natalie Harder, Chancellor of SLCC, and Jimmy Bernard, of Stuller, Inc., who serve as 1A’s Co-Chairs for Workforce & Education, moderated the event, which included testimonials from business leaders and students and a keynote by Louisiana’s Commissioner for Higher Education, Dr. Kim Hunter Reed.
More than 100 stakeholders attended the summit, including K-12 school district superintendents, higher education leaders, business leaders, nonprofit leaders, and other public officials. Following the program, stakeholders participated in a signing ceremony to indicate their commitment to the 55 by 25 goal.
“1A’s Target Industry Strategy, which guides our work to attract new business to the region, suggests that increasing our educational attainment rate is one of the most important things we can do to improve our economic competitiveness as a region. Not only will increasing educational attainment improve our business environment, it will also improve the earnings potential and quality of life of individuals throughout the Acadiana region,” said Troy Wayman, 1A President & CEO.
While other states and regions outside of Louisiana have recently launched similar initiatives, Acadiana is the first region in the state to do so. These initiatives are part of a national effort, spearheaded by Lumina Foundation, to increase the national rate of adults with college degrees or other high-value credentials to 60 percent by 2025.
To develop Acadiana’s goal, 1A staff and committee members met with more than 100 stakeholders in all nine Acadiana parishes, including school district leaders, business leaders, and others.
Based on stakeholder feedback and data analysis, four focus areas emerged: 1) kindergarten readiness, 2) 3rd grade reading, 3) high school to college transition, and 4) credential completion. Initial implementation of the 55 by 25 initiative will promote new and existing programs aligned with these focus areas.
“To reach our 55 by 25 target, Acadiana has some catching up to do. Louisiana ranks 48th as a state for postsecondary attainment, and Acadiana ranks in the bottom half of regions within Louisiana. That said, I am inspired by the partners who are coming together in support of this initiative and confident we can achieve and even surpass our goal,” said Harder.
“The Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce predicts that in the coming years, about 55 percent of job openings in Louisiana will require education beyond high school. By working toward our 55 by 25 goal, we will be preparing our workforce for these jobs of the future,” said Bernard.
“Louisiana has a moral and economic imperative to improve its talent development pipeline. For far too long our most precious resource, our people, have been under-educated, under-employed and under-estimated. By setting an aspirational goal to improve educational attainment, this region has set the standard for building Louisiana’s future economy. Looking ahead, we must honor all pathways that lead to success especially among groups that have traditionally lacked access to higher education and the promise of a better life,” said Reed.
“Acadian Companies is a proud sponsor of the 55 by 25 Summit. We are a company founded on a commitment to our community, and the launch of the 55 by 25 initiative allows our region to address the education and workforce development challenges that are of high importance to Acadiana and the rest of Louisiana,” said Richard Zuschlag, Chairman & CEO, Acadian Companies.
Over the past year, 1A worked with its Workforce & Education Committee to develop the 55 by 25 initiative. As a first step, 1A built an online dashboard, which allows anyone to explore user-friendly, interactive visualizations of key data indicators related to the 55 by 25 goal. The dashboard aims to help provide a better understanding of the data and track progress over time. It is available at oneacadiana.org/education.
One Acadiana is the leading economic development organization for the nine-parish Acadiana region located in south Louisiana. With more than 950 investors and members, One Acadiana serves as the voice of the regional business community. The organization is located in the city of Lafayette and serves a region of roughly 700,000 people with a vibrant culture and unique entrepreneurial spirit. Learn more at OneAcadiana.org.