Fresno is working to solve the problem with a program called "Learn 2 Earn". Five hundred people have signed up for the program since it launched in April. One of them is 47-year-old Dale Brisco.
On the ice is where Dale Brisco has spent most of his 47 years.
"I started play hockey when I was four years old. I am originally from Canada so that's a big way of life up there," Brisco said.
His dream to play in the NHL. He was so commited that at the age of 17 he moved away from home, played in the junior leagues and from there went where-ever hockey took him. There wasn't a lot of time for school.
"Education at that time it was important but for me unfortunately I was going toward becoming a pro hockey player," Brisco said.
His drive to become a pro eventually brought him to Fresno, where he played for the Fresno Falcons in the 1990s. He was one of the top scorers in the league.
But by age 30 the dream of a hockey career was fading and Brisco was left to confront the reality of his life - he never finished high school and had held a string of construction and general labor jobs.
"In that time I hadn't been able to find steady work and then it dawned on me that I really needed to go back to school," Brisco said.
At the same time Fresno Mayor Ashley Swerengin was launching her Learn 2 Earn program, an initiative aimed at helping adults get the basic educated needed to land a job or start a new career.
Brisco attened an informational workshop and signed up to get his GED. He admits to being a little intimated, a little nervous walking into that classroom, but Learn 2 Earn's Linda Davidson says there are a lot of others just like Dale.
"You are looking at people in their 40s and 50s who have had that career and now the economy has changed, the job market has changed for them and now they have to start looking at 'now what I am I going to do?'," Davidson said.
For many it means going back to school. There are an estimated 70 thousand people in Fresno alone who don't have a GED or High School Diploma, and in today's job market they don't have many options if any.
"The employment rules are changing so many employers are looking to people who have degrees to fill the positions they have," Davidson said.
Getting that GED or high school diploma is just the first step - a step Dale was able to complete in seven weeks with the help of Learn 2 Earn education advisors. Dale also laid out a plan for his next step. He enrolled at Khalsa Career College and is on his way to becoming a pheblotomist
"After all these years of playing hockey, being in the construction field, I can finally get a career," Brisco said.
Learn 2 Earn is not just for people seeking their GED. The program will also help those who want to complete college or a certificated program.