The Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) launched a national engagement effort on November 20 (see archived announcement) to explore ways to increase our national capacity to improve the foundation skills of adults in the United States. OVAE is particularly interested in engaging with adult educators to solicit their input into a forthcoming national action plan.
This webinar will be an opportunity to receive a briefing on the PIAAC data, the OECD’s special report on America’s low-skilled population, Time for the U.S. to Reskill?, and engage in a focused discussion about the issues facing adult education.
To prepare for the webinar, see the Consultation Paper, which provides background on the skills issue and the framework for the national action plan. The discussion will continue online in various groups within the LINCS Community of Practice.
Register here for the webinar and help us spread the word among practitioners!
Each year the Department of Education highlights the important role CTE plays in the lives of students and our country. February is Career and Technical Education month and CTE partners across the U.S. are joining the celebration.
The current edition of the OCTAE newsletter includes a message from Secretary Arne Duncan to the “students, parents, business, union and community leaders, educators all through the pipeline, and many more—who are helping to transform CTE and achieve our shared vision of educational excellence and opportunity for all students.”
Keep your eyes open for more activities celebrating CTE month and look for #CTEMonth on Twitter.
Technology is a critical tool for career readiness at the Duke Ellington School for the Arts in Washington, DC.
February is Career and Technical Education (CTE) month, and what could be more fitting than to announce that the name of the Office of Vocational and Adult Education has been changed to the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE). Vocational education was recognized as a national priority with the Smith-Hughes Act of 1917. “Career and Technical Education” has now replaced “vocational education” as a more accurate term to describe what and how students are studying to be career ready.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said, “The president and I believe that high-quality CTE programs are a vital strategy for helping our diverse students complete their secondary and postsecondary studies.” He acknowledged that those on a CTE track are helping our nation meet our economic and workforce challenges. “In fact, by implementing dual enrollment and early college models, a growing number of CTE pathways are helping students to fast-track their college degrees.”
Natalie Tran, a Future Business Leaders of America chapter president at River Hill High School in Clarksville, Md., told ED, “[In CTE] over time, you gain confidence—you know what you are doing, you know that you are able to go into the workforce . . . And it’s all about—knowledge is power, and that’s what CTE provides us.”
In 2012, the Obama Administration released Investing in America’s Future, A Blueprint for Transforming Career and Technical Education. The Blueprint calls for effective, high-quality CTE programs aligned with college- and career-readiness standards. These programs provide work-based learning opportunities that enable students to connect what they are learning to real-life career scenarios and choices. Students participating in effective CTE programs graduate with industry certifications or licenses and postsecondary certificates or degrees that prepare them for in-demand careers within high-growth industry sectors.
A CTE student at the Veterans Tribute Career Technical Academy in Las Vegas, Nev., explains her project to OCTAE Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier
Alvon Brown, a student from The Edison Academy at Edison High School in Alexandria, Va., studied to become an HVAC technician in CTE. He told ED, “. . . instead of just staying with being an HVAC technician, I want to become an engineer and work with HVAC, because I like creating stuff, and I like working—not only do I like working with my hands, I like thinking about what I can do with my hands.”
The Office of Vocational and Adult Education has had a rich history of being in the forefront of career, technical and adult education, providing funding and technical assistance to the career pathways movement, for instance. OCTAE continues to be the office in ED responsible for administering federal CTE programs, as well as the partner adult education programs. The Congressionally-mandated change in name to OCTAE acknowledges the CTE reality and looks to the future as it advances the priorities around preparing all youth and adult students for success in college and careers.
Did you know that the health-care sector and social assistance sector (which includes child and youth services and community services) are projected to account for almost one-third of the total increase in employment over the next 10 years? Or that, of the 30 occupations projected to have the largest percentage increase in employment between 2012 and 2022, 14 are related to health care and five are related to construction? Kristina Bartsch, chief of the Division of Occupational Employment Projections at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, discussed industries and occupations projected to gain and lose jobs between 2012 and 2022, and the education needed for those jobs, on C-SPAN’s “America by the Numbers” on January 31.
Adults with low literacy skills are four times more likely to report poor to fair health than adults with higher skills. This is two times the international average according to recent data from the Survey of Adult Skills (October, 2013), which is part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC).
This correlation between skills and health presents great challenges to both the individual and his or her healthcare providers to communicate and address the prevention, management, and treatment of disease and healthy behaviors. Poor literacy, numeracy, and problem solving skills adversely affect health care, health information access, health outcomes, and appear to limit engagement in positive, preventative behaviors. At a time when the U.S. is spending more than $2 trillion a year on healthcare ($2.5 trillion in 2009, according to the Surgeon General’s National Prevention Strategy), even a fraction of improved outcomes could save millions of dollars. As a reference, the U.S. federal investment in the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA), which funds adult basic education and English proficiency classes, is $563 million.
U.S. adults ages 16-65 performed poorly on all measures of the Survey of Adult Skills, with average scores below international averages in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in a technology-rich environment. While there are high performers in each domain, the U.S. population has a greater proportion of adults of working age with low skills (defined as below Level 2 on a five level scale) than the comparison countries (see more about the findings here).
The relationship between skills and health provides a strong case for investing in upskilling adults. The economic returns to skill development are clearly demonstrated in the Survey through the correlation of skills to higher wages, more permanent employment, and greater use of skills on the job. The returns to improved health are likely to be at least as important. A healthier workforce is more productive with fewer days lost to illness. The healthcare costs of poor health literacy is demonstrated through higher costs for service, more emergency room visits, and fewer preventative services accessed.
There is a great opportunity to think about addressing skills and health simultaneously in a more holistic approach, as called for in the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy, issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2010. Embedding opportunities for skill development and practice in community health efforts is an underutilized approach. While contextualizing literacy in the context of health has been a promising practice, see resources at the LINCS Health Literacy Collection, too little has been done to use community-based health interventions as the anchor for literacy and numeracy interventions.
Community health workers – whether in hospitals, health centers, private primary care practices or as part of home health care or visiting nurse services – can help low-skilled adults apply the skills they do have to the immediate situation. Health professionals can use plain language and teach back methods of communication, and work closely with local educational service providers to make referrals more seamless and less stigmatized. Similarly, adult education workers can assist individuals with accessing health care, finding insurance, following treatment instructions, applying literacy and numeracy skills to everyday practices, and providing navigation assistance to services that can enhance healthy behavior. Services could be co-located for greater coordination and impact. Cross-training or shared training and professional development within a community could strengthen relationships and referral networks.
The Survey of Adult Skills (OECD, 2013) is clear that skills and quality of life issues are deeply interrelated, especially in the United States. The findings echo a recent report from the Institute of Medicine, U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health. Communities need to address these challenges as related, not separate issues, and find the means to take a holistic view of the quality of life issues faced by low-skilled, low-income, and low-English proficient populations when proposing solutions. Conducting a local health needs assessment and asset map of existing challenges, resources, and future growth projections can be a way to engage the community. Prevention and health safety campaigns are ideal opportunities to involve the full range of family-serving organizations in a community.
In November 2013, the U.S. Department of Education launched a national engagement effort to explore ways to increase our national capacity to improve the foundation skills of adults in the United States. Regional events have been held through the winter and communities are being asked to provide input and feedback from their own locally-hosted roundtable discussions to inform a national action plan.
In order to assist communities in hosting roundtable discussions, the Department created a set of resources and an online submission form. See www.TimetoReskill.org for the following tools:
Consultation Paper, a 10-page paper that can be shared in advance of an event to provide background on the skills issue and the framework for the national action plan.
Toolkit, a step-by-step guide to running a local roundtable from types of people to invite to the questions to pose.
Online feedback form for submitting feedback. (Please submit comments by March 14 to be considered in the Plan.)
We hope community health partners will be part of the solution! Consider hosting a roundtable discussion in your area and contributing to the national action plan.
Johan Uvin is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Strategic Initiatives at the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education
The LINCS Community of Practice marked an important milestone as it surpassed 10,000 registered users last week. Thanks to all who have helped spread the word about how this vibrant community can support teachers and programs. Keep growing!
New course launched:Integrating Technology self-paced online course is designed for instructors who are at the beginner/intermediate level of technology integration in the classroom. It is available on the LINCS Learning Portal. This course helps teachers understand how technology can support their instructional goals and provides guidance on how to incorporate various popular tools. A certificate of completion for four hours is available.
February is Financial Aid Awareness month. Join the Financial Literacy and Postsecondary Completion groups from February 3- 14 for a special discussion in which adult education program managers, counselors, and teachers from a range of adult education programs will share their strategies and techniques for incorporating financial literacy into their adult education programs.
Teaching Strategies: Easing the Pathway for Adult Learners with Disabilities to Develop Competence in the Classroom and Beyond. Join the Disabilities in Adult Education group for a special discussion from February 3-14.
Digital Learning Day: Four-Part Technology Tools Webinar Series. Celebrate Digital Learning Day on February 5 by pledging to acquire new knowledge about current technology tools used to advance education. LINCS is partnering with the Literacy Assistance Center in New York City to offer a series of 30-minute webinars on how to use technology tools in education, held every Thursday in February, starting on February 13, from 3:00-3:30 PM ET.
If you want to engage the high-tech industry to help improve job readiness for the nation’s 36 million low-skilled adults, a good place to start is Silicon Valley.
That is just what the Wadhwani Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education did. In January, Wadhwani staff, led by Chief Executive Officer Ajay Kela, were joined by ED’s Brenda Dann-Messier, assistant secretary for career, technical, and adult education; Johan Uvin, deputy assistant secretary for policy and strategic initiatives; and Cheryl Keenan, director of the Adult Education and Literacy Division, for a listening-and-working session at Cañada College, in Redwood City, Calif.
Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier (seated, second from left) and Wadhwani Foundation’s Gayatri Agnew (standing, left) are joined by colleagues at the adult reskilling session in Redwood City, Calif. (ED photo credit: Joe Barison)
This engagement event, “Time for the U.S. to Reskill,”brought more than 50 San Francisco Bay Area adult-education stakeholders together, with representation from local workforce, community, and advocacy organizations. The welcome by Wadhwani’s Kela, ED’s Dann-Messier, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Regional Administrator Robert Garcia described the magnitude of the low-skilled-adults challenge. The speakers emphasized how a worker’s low skill level directly affects life beyond employment, starting with a person’s health.
The format was “to put people in a room who may not typically come into a room together and convene unlikely stakeholders,” said Gayatri Agnew, Wadhwani’s program director for Race to a Job – USA.
The immediate goal, Dann-Messier said, “is a national plan to improve the foundation skills of the 36 million low-skilled adults in this country.” She explained her imperative to travel to California and to be in the room. “I need to hear what the folks are saying regionally, what the challenges are, what the solutions are, and it’s very important for me to hear all of that first-hand, and not have it filtered.”
Agnew moderated a panel comprised of adult-education stakeholders, followed by general discussion. The participants then dispersed to a half-dozen small rooms for a working lunch and creating the start of solutions. Later, during a break, participants talked about their reasons for attending the session and assessed how things were going.
“We’re trying to serve an issue here of equality, access issues, in both the field of Latinos moving up in the corporate world and in social equity,” said Luis Chavez, chairman of the board, Latino Institute on Corporate Inclusion, and a senior director for the Career Ladders Project.
Silicon Valley employers gave their perspectives as well. Kris Stadelman, director of the Nova Workforce Investment Board, said, “In education – I hear this from employers – your product is supposed to be a trained, ready, educated, prepared workforce.” In this light, she said, the day’s program was on the right track. “It was really good to start out with evidence, with the data, to really quantify what it is we’re talking about. I think the questions were all the right ones.”
This engagement session was one of five ED nationwide sessions, with others held in Philadelphia, Chicago, rural Cleveland, Miss., and the greater Boston, Mass. area. While each session is unique, Dann-Messier sees the Silicon Valley session as different from the rest. “If you’ve got 36 million folks – and federally we’re only serving two million – traditional means aren’t going to work,” she said. “We have to really make sure that we utilize technology-enabled solutions.”
Joe Barison is the director of communications and outreach for ED’s San Francisco Regional Office.