By Sharine Sample

One of the biggest factors affecting how much you’ll earn in your career is education. Today I’d like to talk about the first educational milestone for most people: completing high school. Being a high school graduate can have a big impact on your future, let alone your job search. If you don’t have a high school diploma, have you ever wondered where you can go for help?

We all probably know someone who was unable to obtain their high school diploma in the traditional way. Sometimes the traditional school environment just isn’t a good fit academically or socially. Sometimes, health issues or other unforeseen circumstances cause a person to drop out of high school. There is a wide variety of barriers that could have prevented a student from fully succeeding in the traditional classroom setting.

Regardless of the reason for not completing high school, that individual will earn far less over the course of their working life that someone with a high school diploma or GED – on average, $8,000 less per year. This past April, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that, of students who had left high school between October 2020 and October 2021, the labor force participation rate for recent dropouts was 39.1%, compared to 66.9% for recent high school graduates not enrolled in college. The jobless rate was for recent high school dropouts was 15.6%, at a time when the overall U.S. unemployment rate was only 4.4%.

It’s true that currently we’re experiencing a workforce shortage in most industries and positions. Some employers that used to require a high school diploma or GED are waiving that requirement. However, that trend may not last. If you are without a high school education and have struggled to find a job, this might be the ideal time to complete your education while working so that you are set up for success long-term.

Employers who are waiving high school/GED requirements so they can fill much-needed positions also have an opportunity to think long-term. You probably have some employees who have great potential to commit to a career with your company, but who face roadblocks to advancement because they do not have their high school diploma. Encouraging your employees to advance their education can help you retain valuable members of your team.

There is a new resource in our community that can help. The Access Center Adult High School, a partnership between Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina and Mitchell Community College, offers a unique opportunity for individuals to earn a high school diploma. Students receive their education or educational supports from Mitchell Community College, plus in-person and virtual assistance with career exploration, planning, and employment services from Goodwill.

Though it may sound cliché, it’s true – obtaining a high school diploma could be the open door that you (or someone you know) needs to start the journey to a dream career. A diploma or GED is the first step to getting other training and education, whether you’re looking to start a new career or to further your current career or trade.

A high school diploma represents hard work and a strong ability to stick to commitments. It shows an employer that you are determined to build your career, skills and confidence. Having that certificate is the gateway to improved employability, better pay and, most importantly, to boosting your self-esteem. When you are applying for jobs or networking, being able to say that you are a high school graduate can greatly improve your confidence in professional and relationship development.

If you would like to learn more about how to take the next step to obtain your high school diploma or GED, contact Kilby Watson, Access Center Career Coach, at, 704-873-5005, or visit


Sharine Sample is the Regional Workforce Development Manager at Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina.

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