Last month, we celebrated the one-year anniversary of Upskill America. There was a lot to celebrate. The employers who made commitments last year at the Upskill America Summit created training for approximately 200,000 frontline workers that could lead to higher-skill jobs. Over 10,000 workers have earned degrees and credentials, and nearly 5,000 workers have already been promoted into higher-paying positions. Over the same period, 532,150 frontline workers participated in adult education programs funded by Title II of WIOA to strengthen their math, reading, writing, or English skills.
This is great progress. An analysis of recent data on frontline workers, however, shows we must do more. See a fact sheet created by OCTAE for the 2016 Upskill celebration, based on the updated Survey of Adult Skills data. The good news is that WIOA creates opportunities to further extend upskilling efforts for the benefit of America’s workforce.
Let’s look at the data first. There are between 20 and 24 million workers who lack foundation skills for getting ahead, with literacy proficiency below Level 2 on the Survey of Adult Skills. Who are they and where do they work?
60% hold one or more jobs in the following industries: retail, health, hospitality/food, manufacturing, and construction
Low-skilled frontline workers have different backgrounds and have different language proficiencies and needs.
57% are men
50% are younger than age 45
Nearly 80% are parents
20% are Black
Nearly 40% are Hispanic
Nearly 70% have at least a high school diploma
60% make less than $20,000 a year, which is much less than the median earnings for all workers with a high school diploma, not just lower-skilled workers.
These workers have different backgrounds and bring diverse views to their work and workplaces, and a significant number of frontline workers are bilingual or multi-lingual.
It is very encouraging that many frontline workers have taken steps to improve their skills. Fifty percent participated in formal or non-formal education in the year leading up to the Survey and 10 percent participated in distance education. Employers were more likely to have paid for non-formal education and training, in 40 percent of the cases, than formal education, in only 10 percent.
If half of these frontline workers do participate in education and training, then half – or roughly between 10 and 12 million workers – do not. So how do we change that? And specifically, what can the public and private sectors do together to give more frontline workers access to education and training opportunities that will allow them to move up?
WIOA offers specific opportunities to expand access. As States are preparing to compete their WIOA Title II funding, for instance, partnerships between employers and eligible providers can apply for funding to support learning opportunities for frontline workers. Here you can find an example of how Alexandria City Public Schools are working with Dominion Services–Virginia Power to create a powerful upskilling program for work in the electrical and utility industry. But, WIOA can do much more for employers and their employees. See a guide compiled by the Department of Labor on how businesses can engage in the workforce development system.
Employers, WIOA service providers, and partners can collaborate to create that first job opportunity for many of our vulnerable subpopulations, particularly those individuals with significant barriers to employment including job seekers with disabilities, foster youth, returning citizens, and others. This type of upskill-backfill partnership creates a pipeline for firms and pathways for workers. There are no losers in this. Only winners.
Median annual earnings for all workers with a high school diploma for all skill levels are approximately $30,000 based on 2012 Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies data.
UTEC has an opportunity to partner with two national organizations that are Social Innovation Fund intermediaries. REDF specifically invests in mission-driven businesses that hire and assist people willing and able to work, but who face multiple barriers to employment. The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s new Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential (LEAP) initiative aims to increase educational and employment opportunities for youth ages 14 to 25 who are involved in the justice system or have other significant barriers to success. This work closely aligns with the existing Improved Reentry Education program, which seeks to demonstrate that high-quality, appropriately designed, integrated, and well-implemented educational and related services—provided in institutional and community settings—are critical in supporting educational attainment and reentry success for previously incarcerated individuals.
This work also aligns with broader federal priorities for criminal justice reform. The Obama Administration has consistently taken steps to make the criminal justice system fairer and more effective and to address the vicious cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration that traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities. This includes a series of concrete actions to reduce the challenges and barriers that the formerly incarcerated confront, including through the work of the Federal Interagency Reentry Council, a cabinet-level working group to support the federal government’s efforts to promote public safety and economic opportunity through purposeful cross-agency coordination and collaboration.
This post is created by Guest Blogger, Sean Addie, Director of Correctional Education in OCTAE.
Last week, I, along with regional representatives from the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, spoke as part of a Fresh Federal Perspectives plenary session at the 2016 youth conference hosted by the California Workforce Association in Sacramento. Assemblymember Autumn Burke, a strong advocate for career and technical education, kicked off the session.
Beginning students learn how to safely climb poles. The program has a waiting list of several hundred students, many of whom will wait a year.
There were over 500 youth practitioners and policy makers in attendance. I stressed why partnerships are essential at all levels if we want all youth – not some youth – to have the opportunity to access a path into the middle class. Later in the day, I had the opportunity to meet briefly with the executive leadership of California’s Workforce Board to talk about California’s draft Unified Plan under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).
Then, I had the opportunity to hear from state administrators and local program leaders in a listening and consultation session at the California Department of Education. WIOA and state funding in California, called the Adult Education Block Grant (AEBG), California’s WIOA State Plan, and other statewide initiatives were the key topics of discussion.
Students in the Photovoltaics program that integrates math, technical and hands-on training learn how to install solar panels.
By Guest Author, Acting Assistant Secretary Johan E. Uvin.
A college degree or credential is the key to individual and national prosperity. By 2020, economists predict that nearly two thirds of all jobs will require some level of education and training beyond high school. However, less than 60 percent of Americans 25 years and older currently have this level of preparation.
Last week, I had the fortune of engaging with hundreds of adult education practitioners, researchers, and advocates at National College Transition Network (NCTN) conference in Providence, RI. These thought leaders convened to share and identify effective strategies for helping adult learners progress to and through postsecondary education and training to good jobs.
Dual enrollment programs, in which students enroll in postsecondary coursework while working toward a secondary school diploma, was one of the many promising approaches discussed at NCTN. Research has shown that participation in dual enrollment programs can lead to improved academic outcomes for students such as greater secondary school completion, higher GPA, and increased likeliness of enrolling in and completing a postsecondary degree.
Recognizing the promise of dual enrollment, last year Congress amended the Higher Education Act to allow students who do not have a high school diploma or its equivalent to be eligible for Title IV financial aid through a program called Ability to Benefit (ATB). In order to receive Title IV financial aid through ATB, students must be enrolled in an eligible career pathway program.
In an effort to expand access to higher education, on November 3rd the Department of Education published a Federal Register notice inviting postsecondary institutions, in partnership with public secondary schools or local education agencies, to apply to participate in the dual enrollment experiment that will allow students without a secondary school diploma or its recognized equivalent to receive Federal Pell Grants for integrated education programs. This experiment will expand access to college coursework for secondary school students from low-income backgrounds, a group that studies have identified as benefiting immensely from dual enrollment programs. The Department will invest up to $20 million in the 2016-17 award year, benefiting up to 10,000 students from low-income backgrounds across the country.
In addition to helping low-income students currently enrolled in a traditional public secondary school, this experimental program can provide much needed educational and financial support to low-skilled adults. In the U.S., over 30 million adults do not have a high school diploma and 20% of U.S. adults with a high school diploma have low literacy skills. Many of these low skilled adults are actively seeking educational programs and are working to increase skills, educational attainment, and economic outcomes, and say they want to do more. Dual enrollment programs could enable these adults, particularly those from low-income backgrounds, to achieve their goals.
To be considered for participation in the Dual Enrollment experimental site, interested postsecondary institutions must submit a letter of interest to the Department of Education, following the procedures listed in the Federal Register notice.
Johan E. Uvin Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE)
Co-authored post by Johan Uvin, Acting Assistant Secretary of Education, OCTAE, researcher and teacher; and Gail Spangenberg, President, National Council for Adult Learning
Moving PD Closer to the Top was the theme of an August 25th blog hosted by the National Council for Adult Learning. A group of prominent Adult Education leaders contributed essays to that blog. They were Mary Ann Corley, John Fleischman, Daphne Greenberg, David Rosen, Cristine Smith, Jackie Taylor, Randy Whitfield, and the co-authors of this essay. They gave their perspectives on the high importance of professional development in our field and suggested many excellent priority actions in PD to meet current and future demands for outreach and effective service.
It is time to throw down the gauntlet for PD. A serious conversation and commitment to Adult Education professional development is long overdue. We should be talking more extensively and with higher-level commitment about the conditions we need to create for work and learning in our field, for the good of adult learners and our nation. All the more so as we work together to prepare for a full and robust implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. NCAL’s blog was a start. We hope the following discussion will add usefully to that beginning and encourage others to weigh in with their own ideas.
WHAT THE DATA TELLS US
A recent report from The New Teacher Project concludes that school districts spend an average of $18,000 per teacher annually on professional development. The report summarizes the results of a survey of over 10,000 teachers and 500 school leaders in three large public school systems, as well as the results of interviews and analyses of teacher ratings. This huge investment produced underwhelming outcomes. Only 30% of teachers saw improvements in their practice over a 2-3 year period. The report also notes that no particular approach helped teachers get better, and among teachers who did improve success was not linked to any systemic efforts by the districts.
Guest Blogger Heather Ritchie, MAACCE President and Professional Development Specialist, Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School
I am a teacher. I am a trainer. I am an educator. I am an administrator. These are the words I use to describe myself when someone asks what I do for a living. Then there is “I am an advocate for adult education.” This is a phrase I never used to use but find myself utilizing more often these days. It is the most powerful of the phrases and I wish all of my colleagues would add it to their titles too.
As many people have done, I did not plan a career in adult education, I evolved into it. I worked in communications and nonprofits. I loved travel and celebrated the unique nature of different cultures locally and abroad. Reading has always been one of my pleasurable pastimes; it is a gateway to information and ideas I never knew existed. Then, I learned about opportunities in my local area to teach adults. (As you’ve probably noticed, my impetus was all about me up until this point.) Then, I started teaching and year by year, my focus has been less about me and more about the students.
The students – amazing individuals who balance family with work at multiple jobs, some of whom have come from other countries and left so much behind, who have dreams of brighter futures for their children and sometimes themselves. The students changed the way I thought about our work. Instead of looking only inside the classroom to see what I could do to best support them, I began looking outside to the broader community and realized how much was hidden from the broader public – our neighbors, our politicians, and businesses.
Whenever advocacy is mentioned and volunteers are called for, the truth is, people usually turn the other way or look at their phones. Why is this? Probably, because it is an unknown experience or it is misunderstood. Most people are afraid this means talking with politicians or public speaking. Advocacy can be those things, but it is so much more! It is getting the message out to anyone and everyone, so that adult students, who are also our neighbors, can have more access to quality opportunities for education.
When I call myself an advocate these days, here is what I think of and hope that you will too:
America is creating millions of jobs. But, too many of these jobs go unfilled – five million to be exact. At the same time, there are roughly 8.7 million Americans looking for work and 24 million front-line workers who could fill these jobs, if they had the skills or were given the opportunity.
As the economy continues to improve, more and more employers struggle to find skilled workers with the requisite skills to fill in-demand jobs. At the same time, between twenty and thirty million workers in low-wage jobs – many of whom could be trained to fill more skilled roles – lack a clear path to a better job and career. According to the OECD, these workers are about half as likely as their high-skilled colleagues to participate in any job-relevant education or training over the course of the year. These workers need expanded opportunities and lowered barriers to gain both basic and technical skills.
In his State of the Union address last Tuesday, the President called on employers across the country to adopt or expand additional measures to help front-line workers gain the training and credentials to advance into better paying jobs – including paying for college education, offering on-the-job training for career progression, and increasing access to technology-enabled learning tools. The day after, the President’s first stop and appearance was at Boise State University in Idaho where he launched an “Upskill America” initiative:
Today, we’re partnering with business across the country to “Upskill America” — to help workers of all ages earn a shot at better, higher-paying jobs, even if they don’t have a higher education. We want to recruit more companies to help provide apprenticeships and other pathways so that people can upgrade their skills. We’re all going to have to do that in this new economy. But it’s hard to do it on your own, especially if you’re already working and supporting a family.
Many employers have already developed promising approaches to training and credentialing for upskilling front-line workers as part of successful talent strategies. And, we know that many others see the opportunity to benefit their workforce and bottom lines through investments in the skills of their front-line workers. This challenge creates a great opportunity for business, industry, labor, and government to team up and find and support a solution together.
The Administration is working with employers to identify and spread best practices for education, training and credentialing of front-line workers to help with their job progression. Examples of these practices are employers paying for their front-line workers’ college education, identifying clear internal pathways, providing career counseling and coaching, offering on-the-job training that leads to career progression, and providing access to online and technology-enabled education tools so workers can develop their basic and technical skills.
In the coming months, businesses of all sizes will be convened, as well as foundations, education and training non-profits and other partners who are committing to make new investments, to collectively set new goals and change policies that will enable low-skilled front-line workers to progress into better-paying jobs and help employers meet their current and projected unmet demand for skilled labor.
This effort to improve the skills of front-line workers builds on the actions Vice President Biden presented to President Obama on July 22, 2014 as part of his report Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity. In his 2014 State of the Union address, the President had tasked Vice President Biden with leading a review of federal employment and training programs, with the aim of making them more job-driven. Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity highlights successful job-driven training strategies, details executive actions that are being taken by the federal government, and new commitments by employers, non-profits, unions and innovators to help spread what’s working. As indicated in the release of the Ready to Work report, if you’re ready to work, you should be able to find a job that fits your skills, or get trained with the skills you need for a better job.
In November 2014, U.S. Secretary of Labor Perez launched The Skills Working Group, an interagency effort to maintain focus and attention around interagency, collaborative efforts of the Job-Driven Training Initiative, as well as emerging opportunities around cross-agency skills coordination. Thirteen federal agencies, the White House National Economic Council, and the Office of Management and Budget make up The Skills Working Group including the departments of Labor, Education, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs, Transportation, Energy, Defense, Justice, Interior, and the Social Security Administration. The Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education has been an active contributor to this work and leads the career pathways and upskilling work streams.
I find it inspiring to see businesses and labor-management initiatives expand access to training and provide supports for Americans to access pathways into the middle class. CVS Health, for example, is expanding access to job-advancement training for their employees by launching two new regional learning centers that will serve thousands of additional employees in the next two years. This builds on the six regional learning centers CVS Health currently operates in partnership with community colleges and other community service organizations, to help support thousands of workers as they build customer service- and healthcare-related job skills for career progression. The Upstate NY 1199 SEIU Training and Upgrading Fund started C.N.A. training in the Syracuse (Central NY) area three years ago for incumbent SEIU members to allow lower level workers (dietary and housekeeping) to move up the career ladder. Since this initiative was not always able to fill this program with incumbent workers, they started drawing on people from the community. Community participants are funded through grants.
It is also exciting to see how many opportunities the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) provides for businesses – in partnership with adult education and youth and adult training providers or otherwise – to ensure that our nation’s workforce is ready to work and remains highly skilled and competitive. Whether it is through the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act – Title II of WIOA – or through any of the other core programs, WIOA can play a critical role in achieving the goals of UpSkill America. Here are just a few ways that WIOA can do this:
Employer partnerships with education providers are eligible entities under Title II. This creates opportunities for employers and providers to team up and offer foundation skill development opportunities for low-skilled workers looking to get ahead. Learn more at a new, interactive site designed to support employer-adult education partnerships.
Employers can take advantage of increased access to work-based training. WIOA provides the ability for local workforce investment areas to help employers train their workers.
WIOA also increases reimbursement available for on-the-job training from 30 percent to 75 percent.
Businesses, under WIOA, can collaborate with American Job Centers, community colleges, and adult education providers to develop integrated education and training programs—including Registered Apprenticeships—at the workplace to help employees gain basic and technical skills and advance to the next level of work. Further, this collaboration can support regional sector strategies and the development of career pathways that support job seekers and help meet the needs of employers.
WIOA places a great emphasis on serving out-of-school youth. The new law requires local communities to spend at least 75 percent of available youth funding, or approximately $500 million, on this population. This provision goes into effect July 1, 2015. By partnering with the public sector to provide apprenticeships, internships, summer jobs, and other on-the-job training experiences, businesses can help the nation maximize opportunities for disconnected youth and young adults and build a skilled workforce.
The UpSkill America initiative, the implementation of WIOA, the modernization and expansion of apprenticeships, and the implementation of the executive actions in the Ready to Work report are all contributing to the momentum that is building in our country to make sure that all Americans have the skills that employers need and that will allow them to get ahead.
Johan E. Uvin is the Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education
As winter break unwinds and college students are at home for the holidays, many homeless and foster care students find themselves scrambling for somewhere to live until classes resume in January. College campuses traditionally close down for winter break. For these vulnerable students their college campus is their home, their community and a primary source of security. While their peers are headed home to see family and catch up with old friends, many of these young people are faced with bleak prospects for the holiday season.
These vulnerable youth face the same struggles as other young people trying to maintain good grades, navigating social peer groups, and planning their futures, but they face the additional burdens associated with little to no adult guidance or support. Fortunately, higher education professionals across our nation have begun to tackle the unique issues faced by homeless and foster care students. They are developing comprehensive strategies to address the most persistent barriers these students face; not just during the holiday season, but all year long.
“Higher education can be the silver bullet to achieving long-term health, housing, and economic security. And for young people who have already overcome so much adversity just to earn a seat in a college classroom, they should have every opportunity—inside and outside of the classroom—to succeed” says Jasmine Hayes, Policy Director for the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. “Ensuring these youth have a safe, stable place to call home in-between semesters is critical. Keeping student housing open and available for youth experiencing homelessness during semester breaks is an effective approach.”
Programs in states like Colorado and North Carolina have implemented Single Points of Contact (SPOCs) in their postsecondary institutions which provide these students access to designated college administrators who are committed to helping them to successfully navigate the college-going process. States and higher education institutions across the country are also working to address the issues these students face, including
access to higher education opportunities and financial support;
navigation of the college-going process, including financial aid and service referral processes; and
basic needs like employment, housing and food.
These efforts are ensuring these most vulnerable students reach their highest potential.
Colleges can play a pivotal role in supporting the academic success of these students. Just ask for foster youth, Alain Datcher. “Entering college as a first time student was a daunting experience. It was a mixture of culture shock, academic rigor and rapid growth. I don’t believe I would have succeeded without the support network I had in one woman – Tamara Malone. She was a mentor, academic advisor, dean and more in one caring, compassionate woman.” When asked how he thought his experience could translate for other students who are homeless or in foster care he replied, “Proximity will define opportunity for these young people. Having a close, approachable, and tangible support network will make the difference. It did in my college education at Biola University. I’ll be earning a Master’s of Public Policy degree in April. Having one caring, single point of contact in Tamra is a big reason why I will.”
When educators act, they change lives. If you know of a foster youth student in your institution, be proactive and reach out. It can make all the difference. Find out more at http://findyouthinfo.gov/.
Guest bloggers: Annie Blackledge, Casey Family Programs Senior Fellow with the U.S. Department of Education, and Johan Uvin, Acting Assistant Secretary for OCTAE.
by Johan E. Uvin, Acting Assistant Secretary, OCTAE, U.S. Department of Education
On Thursday, August 21st and Tuesday, August 26th, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor, the Corporation for National and Community Services, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Office of Management and Budget and the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education co-hosted tribal outreach webinars on Performance Partnership Pilots (P3). These national calls had attendance from various tribal leaders and provided an opportunity for the tribal communities serving disconnected youth to learn about the goals of P3 and current activities to launch the program this fall.
It is essential that we develop solutions to reconnect the more than 5 million youth, nationwide, who are not employed nor in school to help them on a path to post-secondary education and careers, and to ensure we have a skilled and talented workforce that can meet the needs of employers both now and in the future. We know that for many American Indian & Alaska Native youth, the challenges they face are great. American Indian and Alaska Native students continue to lag behind their peers on national assessments, account for the highest dropout rate of any racial or ethnic population, and hold a dramatically lower share of baccalaureate degrees than the rest of the population.
According to the National Congress of American Indians, over 40 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native people are under the age of 24. The P3 tribal outreach calls are an extension of the Administration’s commitment to strengthen the nation to nation relationship with tribal governments in order to improve the quality of life for all American Indians and Alaska Natives. In partnership with tribal nations, the Administration continues to identify and promote critical reforms that prepare American Indian and Alaska Native students for leadership in their communities and success in the 21st century.
About Performance Partnership Pilots
The 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Bill provides authority to the Departments of Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services, along with the Corporation for National and Community Service, to enter into up to 10 Performance Partnership agreements with state, local, or Federally-recognized tribal governments that give them additional flexibility in using discretionary funds across multiple Federal programs. States, localities, and Federally-recognized tribal governments that seek to participate in these pilots will commit to achieve significant improvements for disconnected youth in educational, employment, and other key outcomes in exchange for this new flexibility.
The primary focus of the pilots will be providing disconnected youth with more effective supports to climb ladders of opportunity. The pilots will support innovative partnerships across local governments, non-profits, businesses and other sectors. In some cases, pilots will help propel collaborative and evidence-based work that jurisdictions already have underway. Finally, the pilots as a group will provide a valuable opportunity to learn whether this model for Federal partnership improves outcomes on the ground, and how it could be extended to other Federal programs.
The U.S. workforce is in crisis. Today, 36 million adults in our country are considered low-skilled (OECD, 2013). This means about 1 in 6 American adults lack the ability to spell, read, and write and about 1 in 3 lack the ability to do basic math. These are the basic skills that 21st century employers need as they look to fill millions of current job vacancies. Meanwhile, the majority of working adults with low skills earn meager wages with little to no pathways for career advancement into the middle class. The skills gap also has serious social and economic implications for an individual’s overall quality of life. Adults with low skills are also four times more likely to report poor to fair health than those with higher skills. Needless to say, the economic consequences for our country are significant.