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Like other metropolitan areas across the nation, the Kansas City region faces challenges in educating a skilled workforce to meet employer demands. About 34 percent of adults over age 25 in the region have at least a bachelor’s degree, but the demand for educated workers in the region exceeds supply. In the last 10 years, 40 percent of new jobs created require a bachelor’s degree.

In June 2014, Lumina Foundation selected 75 U.S. communities, including the Kansas City region, to participate in the second phase of its community-based postsecondary education attainment strategy. Lumina launched the strategy in 2013 with a cohort of 20 cities.

Lumina’s strategy is designed to help communities and regions dramatically increase the number of local residents with postsecondary education credentials. As a participating region, Kansas City will benefit from significant technical and planning assistance, data tools, flexible funding, and the ability to customize attainment plans that will best suit the community’s needs. Kansas City's initiative is known as GradForceKC.

Lumina’s goal for this work is to mobilize all sectors in the community to improve postsecondary attainment. MARC will partner with Lumina and national thought leaders through 2016 to establish specific attainment goals for the Kansas City region. Local organizations will work with national partners to develop an action plan focused on reaching the attainment goal to increase the percentage of high-quality credentials held by Kansas City area residents.

GradForceKC will focus on two key populations: 
(1) adult learners who need postsecondary credentials to develop the skills required by industry and find gainful employment and/or greater career opportunities; and
(2) low-income, Hispanic and black students, many of whom are located in the urban core of Kansas City, Missouri, and Kansas City, Kansas. 

Objective 1: Develop an enhanced public-private partnership that will identify and help implement strategies, create a postsecondary data tracking system and support industry partnership collaboration.

Objective 2: Strengthen postsecondary readiness and career awareness in the Kansas City region, particularly for first-generation, low-income and underserved populations.

Objective 3: Build strategies to strengthen services for existing postsecondary students and returning adult students to achieve high-demand degrees and certifications.