Hispanics will account for 95 percent of the teen population growth in the United States through 2020, according to research from Spanish-language media giant Univision. In addition, the 2010 U.S. Census counted more than 50 million Latinos or Hispanics living in the U.S., representing 16 percent of the population.

As a music industry executive implied during a recent conference of public relations professionals, the Latino population is no longer a novelty but a growing and entrenched facet of the United States consumer market. To tie back to the “Extraordinary Commitment” report we have been discussing in the past two posts, research indicates that Latino students also represent a rapidly increasing portion of the working learner population. In this final installment on the 21st century student, we will take a closer look at the Hispanic working learner and postsecondary education.

In the next four decades, the U.S. Latino population is expected to double, and more Hispanics could enter the labor force. Latino women in particular are poised to replace baby boomers in the workplace, which means they will need a college education to acquire the future workforce skills we discussed in earlier posts.

However, one of the biggest issues facing Hispanics is the disproportionately low attainment of high school diplomas and college and graduate-level degrees as compared with other ethnic groups. Given the estimated population growth of Hispanics in the U.S., and a projected 6-million person gap by 2012 between the number of college graduates and the number of workers needed to replace retirees, boosting Latino graduation rates is critical to the strength of our future workforce.

Much like the other subgroups of 21st century students, the Hispanic adult learner must often juggle career obligations with college coursework.  HispanTelligence reports that nearly 3 million Hispanic-owned businesses generated approximately $389 billion. This figure is projected to grow to $539 billion in 2012. Education can help Latinos contribute even more to the economy by giving them a foundation in business skills such as knowing how to find funding and capital.

Also noted in the report is the need for cultural sensitivity among university faculty and staff. Some Hispanic adult learners are also first-generation college students, meaning that they are the first in their families to pursue higher education. As some of us may recall, the university enrollment process can be a labyrinth of confusion. For a first-generation adult learner, it can be equally if not more daunting. Hispanic adults entering college may need guidance on these procedures as well as how to apply for financial aid.

U.S. Hispanics represent the 15th largest consumer economy in the world. Bolstered with a postsecondary education, this segment of our population stands to make a vital contribution to the nation’s workplace – and its economic health – in 2020.
*Source – The Atlantic