Today, July 1, 2015, marks the day that many of the provisions of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) take effect. This new law has the potential to make a tremendous difference for tens of millions of workers, jobseekers and students across this country. WIOA’s transformation of our publicly-funded workforce system means that all of us—federal and state partners, governments, non-profits and educational and training institutions, must be pressing for innovations to ensure:
the needs of business and workers drive our workforce solutions
one-stop centers, also known as American Job Centers (AJCs) provide excellent customer service to both jobseekers and employers and focus on continuous improvement; and
the workforce system supports strong regional economies and plays an active role in community and economic development.
June is Immigrant Heritage Month. In recognition of the work the adult education community is doing to support the diverse linguistic and cultural assets of immigrants, OCTAE is featuring the following blog by Nancy Fritz, Assistant Coordinator at the Rhode Island Family Literacy Initiative.
My journey in adult education began in 1986 when I signed up as an adult literacy volunteer with Literacy Volunteers of America. With a longstanding interest in languages and having previously taught high school civics and history, I immediately loved it and I knew I wanted to work on the field of adult education and enrolled in some graduate classes. Like many ESOL instructors, I pieced together my work through part-time positions for several adult education agencies including at a public library. Luckily, I was able to obtain a full-time position at one agency as a teacher and then as an Education Director.
For the past 4 years, I have worked for the Rhode Island Family Literacy Initiative (RIFLI). RIFLI was founded sixteen years ago when libraries began receiving increasing requests from recent immigrants for English as a Second Language (ESL) services. The Providence Public Library (PPL) responded by implementing a family literacy program at one branch library. The program has grown significantly since then and RIFLI now provides classes in six library systems, in the public schools to the parents of children, in businesses for employees, and in our local One Stop employment center. We offer ESL, Citizenship, Digital Literacy, Transition to College and Career, Math, and Conversation classes. RIFLI serves approximately 300 adults per year.
The Workforce Innovation Fund (WIF), launched in 2011, supports service delivery innovation at the systems level and promotes long-term improvements in the performance of the public workforce system, including strengthening evidence based program strategies through evaluation and the scaling of best practices. The 2015 WIF application heavily encourages workforce agencies to team up with at least two of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) core program partners from among Wagner-Peyser Employment Service; the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act Program; and the Vocational Rehabilitation Program authorized under Title I of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Colleagues in the federally funded adult education community should consider leveraging this application to their benefit, including developing stronger and lasting partnerships with workforce investment boards (WIBs).
Earlier this month, the Department of Labor announced the availability of $34 million for the third round of grants that will support 6-8 grantees in the amounts of $3 to $6 million with the goal of coordinating and aligning resources across the federal government and with state and local partners. Interested parties should pursue one of the following strategies:
Enhance strategic collaboration and coordination of workforce development programs to align services with employer needs and local economic development activities and be more effective;
Strengthen the quality of services to individuals and employers at American Job Centers; and
Promote accountability, data-driven decision-making and customer choice.
Innovation like this already exists among our stakeholders. One such example, Silicon Valley’s Alliance for Language Learners’ Integration, Education, and Success (ALLIES), was highlighted by the Department in the February 2015 report, Making Skills Everyone’s Business. ALLIES boasts three workforce boards, 10 community colleges, three adult education schools, human services agencies, employers, community-based organizations, unions, and the San Mateo Hispanic Chamber of Commerce as members of a network that uses a collective impact approach to empower immigrants in the region by helping them access the appropriate services that will connect them to and help them advance in family-sustaining careers. The current WIF application will encourage more opportunities for cross-core program partnerships such as ALLIES.
The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 helped reopen the door to opportunity in postsecondary education by changing the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA), to partially restore what is known as the “ability to benefit (ATB) alternatives”. The new law went into effect on Dec. 16, 2014, and changed the HEA to allow a student who did not receive a high school diploma (or its recognized equivalent), or who did not complete a secondary school education in a home-school setting, to be eligible for Title IV financial aid. This can now be done through a combination of ATB alternatives and enrollment in an eligible career pathway program (as determined by the Title IV eligible institutions’ staff).
This speech was delivered at the Commission on Adult Basic Education (COABE) conference as a keynote on April 23, 2015. It was dedicated to two individuals who have passed away this year and who made significant contributions to the field of adult education: Eugene Owens, Senior Advisor for the Assessment Division at the National Center for Education Statistics of the U.S. Department of Education; and Mary Jane Schmidt, co-founder of the Adult Numeracy Network and an Adult Numeracy Project Director at TERC.
Thank you, Jackie [Taylor], for that kind introduction and for all the work you and your COABE board have done to put on this conference.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today.
I want to start by saying, skills matter. They matter to our:
Health. We know that adults with higher levels of literacy and numeracy report themselves to be in better health condition and U.S. adults with low literacy skills are four time more likely to report fair or poor health than adults with higher skills. This is twice the international average.
Family well-being and quality of life. What makes up quality of life? Economic security, safe neighborhoods, children’s health and achievement, trust in authorities and a sense that your voice and opinion matter? These things are all strongly correlated with adults’ skills.
Employmentand advancement on the job. We know that youth and adults with higher skills are more likely to be employed, to work in jobs with higher wages, and to work at jobs that allow them to exercise and extend their skills.
Social mobility. Another staggering finding in the OECD Survey of Adult Skills was the strength of intergenerational lack of social mobility. In the U.S., adults with low educated parents (that is, without any postsecondary education) are 10 times more likely to have low skills than adults with at least one college-educated parent. This relationship eases somewhat for younger cohorts, but it is still stronger here than in our competitive countries.
You know these facts. I know these facts. Our adult education colleagues know these facts. What is not clear is if our neighbors, employers, elected officials, and many adults with low skills know these facts. And, they ought to.
I’m not going to share a lot of data with you today except to say when the OECD Survey of Adult Skills was released in Oct 2013, the findings were stunning. 36 million of our fellow Americans struggle with literacy skills, 48 million struggle with numeracy skills, and an even larger number struggle with the technology skills needed to solve every day work-like problems. We’ve spoken about these findings for a year and a half, sounding the alarm that it is “time for the U.S. to reskill” and upskill.
What I’d like to talk about today is how we can do what is necessary to make significant, lasting changes in the skills profile of this country that are evident to all now and in the long run.
Don’t mistake me for Don Quixote de la Mancha with an impossible dream. I know that our efforts in adult education and literacy alone cannot address the vastness of the challenge. I also know that the efforts by our partners in health and human services and workforce development help a lot but those efforts, too, are simply not enough.
I may be eternally optimistic and express big dreams, but I am also a realist. I know that we need to tell the story in a compelling and transformative manner and that we need friends and partners in this quest. Lots and lots of friends.
We need to reframe the narrative, seek new and unlikely partners, and find fresh solutions. The current narrative does not match the severity and magnitude of the skills challenge. Skeptics have pointed at prior reports, data, and efforts and say this time can’t or won’t be different.
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) aims to increase access to and opportunities for employment, education, training, and support services, particularly for individuals with the greatest barriers to employment. WIOA, which marks the most significant change to the Federal adult education, vocational rehabilitation, and workforce development systems in more than a decade, promotes stronger alignment of workforce, education, vocational rehabilitation, and other human services systems in order to improve the structure and delivery of services to individuals, including adults and youth with disabilities and others who face barriers to employment.
While the Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services have always strived to create and expand access to education, training, and employment opportunities for the millions of youth and adults who seek services through their programs, WIOA modernizes and streamlines the workforce development system to offer holistic, wrap around services to support gainful employment in the competitive integrated labor market. WIOA also supports innovative strategies to keep pace with changing economic conditions and calls for improved collaboration among agencies, not just at the State and local levels, but also at the Federal level.
The successful implementation of WIOA will require States and local areas to establish strong partnerships with core programs and other partners in the community, including local educational agencies, in order to successfully serve program participants, workers, and learners. WIOA’s unified and combined state planning provisions support this coordination by requiring a four-year strategy based on an analysis of workforce, employment and unemployment data, labor market trends, and the educational and skills level of a State’s workforce. The strategic planning process will help States align education, employers, and the public workforce system for efficient and effective use of resources. This coordinated planning will also ensure that programs and services are responsive to employer, business, and regional and community needs.
See the newly extended deadline for the call for papers in the special PLOS One Collection: Improving the Lives of Adults and Families: Identifying Individual and Systems-level Factors Relating Education, Health, Civic Engagement, and Economic Well-being. Learn more.
Remarks by Vice President Biden at the March 24, 2015 Upskill Summit.
On April 24, the White House convened nearly 200 employers, labor leaders, foundations, non-profits, educators, workforce leaders and technologists who are answering the President’s call to action to join his Upskill Initiative, a new campaign to help workers of all ages and backgrounds earn a shot at better, higher-paying jobs. The Upskill Initiative is a public-private effort to create clear pathways for the over 20 million workers in front-line jobs who may too often lack the skills or opportunity to progress into higher-paying jobs, and realize their full potential.
Since the President’s call to action in January, the Upskill Initiative has already made significant progress with an initial set of partners and resources already on board:
Over 100 leading employers – representing more than 5 million workers – and 30 national and local labor unions answering the President’s call to action
Coalition of 10 national business networks partnering together to form Upskill America
New tools and resources for workers and employers
Last week’s White House Summit is just the beginning for the Upskill campaign. As the President and Vice President have highlighted, the Initiative’s success will require much more: Employers and labor leaders, philanthropists and tech innovators, educators and workforce leaders, and more committed to unlocking the potential of every American worker.
What is adult education’s role in the Upskill Initiative?
On April 16, 2015, the U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Labor (DOL) announced the release of five notices of proposed rulemaking (NPRMs) related to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), signed into law on July 22, 2014. The NPRMs are available for public comment on the Federal Register website at http://www.regulations.gov. We encourage you to share this information with interested stakeholders.
The five NPRMs include:
DOL NPRM – This NPRM proposes to implement changes made to titles I and III of WIOA, including the adult, dislocated worker, and youth formula programs; state and local workforce development boards; designation of regions and local areas; local plans; the one-stop system; and national programs authorized under title I; and amends the Wagner-Peyser Act under title III. Provide your comments on docket ETA-2015-0001.
Joint Rule for Unified and Combined State Plans, Performance Accountability, and the One-Stop System Joint Provisions —The U.S. Departments of Education and Labor developed a joint rule proposing to implement jointly-administered activities under title I of WIOA regarding Unified and Combined State Plans, performance accountability, and the one-stop system. The proposed rules in the joint NPRM apply to all core programs, including the State Vocational Rehabilitation Services and the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act programs. Provide your comments on docket ETA-2015-0002.
Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA) NPRM – This NPRM proposes to implement changes to programs and activities authorized under AEFLA, which is contained in title II of WIOA. Provide your comments on docket ED-2015-OCTAE-0003.
Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Rehabilitation Act)—These two NPRMs propose to implement changes made to the programs authorized under the Rehabilitation Act, which is contained in title IV of WIOA, as well as implement new provisions:
State Vocational Rehabilitation Services program; State Supported Employment Services program; Limitations on the Use of Subminimum Wage — This NPRM proposes to implement changes to the State Vocational Rehabilitation Services program and the State Supported Employment Services program, as well as implement provisions in new Section 511 (Limitations on the Use of Subminimum Wages). Provide your comments on docket ED-2015-OSERS-0001.
Miscellaneous program changes – This NPRM proposes to implement changes to other Rehabilitation Act programs administered by ED. Provide your comments on docket ED-2015-OSERS-0002.
The Departments invite public comment on the proposed regulations for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register. Comments may be submitted online at www.regulations.gov or hard copy comments may be submitted via postal mail, commercial delivery, or hand delivery. Instructions for submitting public comments are described in each of the NPRMs published in the Federal Register. Any comments not received through the processes outlined in the NPRMs will not be considered by the departments. All comments must be received on or before June 15, 2015.
View the joint DOL and ED press release announcing the release of the NPRMs.
For more information on the NPRMs and additional resources, please visit www.ed.gov/aefla.
This article first appeared in the OCTAE Connection newsletter March 26, 2015. You can access that issue here.
OCTAE commissioned Dr. Stephen Reder, professor in the Department of Applied Linguistics at Portland State University, to create five research briefs using that university’s Longitudinal Study of Adult Learning (LSAL) data to examine the long-term impacts of adult basic skills (ABS) program participation on a range of outcome measures. The study was part of the National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy, with funding provided by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute for Literacy. All entities interested in or serving adult learners are encouraged to review each of the briefs in their entirety for a comprehensive discussion of the findings, as well as data graphics, and references. Links to each of them can be found in the summaries below. PDFs for the series may be accessed on LINCS.
Background: National as well as international studies, including the Survey of Adult Skills, demonstrate the need and economic value of ABS. Yet, there is little rigorous research demonstrating that participation in basic skills programs directly impacts the skill levels, educational attainment, or social and economic well-being of adults with low levels of education.
Figure 1 shows the estimated percentage of the LSAL population that ever participated in an ABS program through each given wave of the study (line graph), as well as the median total hours of program attendance accumulated by participants (bar graph).
Most research on adult literacy development has only examined the short-term changes occurring as students pass through single ABS programs. Most studies use short follow-up intervals and include only program participants—making it difficult to see the long-term patterns of both program participation and persistence, and the ability to assess the long-term impact of ABS program participation. ABS program evaluation and accountability studies have shown small gains for program participants in test scores and other outcomes, but they rarely include comparison groups of nonparticipants and, studies that do include such controls have not found statistically significant ABS program impact. In short, more research is needed that compares adult literacy development among program participants and nonparticipants across multiple contexts and over significant periods of time. This will provide life-wide and lifelong perspectives on adult literacy development and a better assessment of program impacts on a range of outcome measures.
The LSAL is one study that does address these long-term impacts. Between 1998 and 2007, LSAL randomly sampled and tracked nearly 1,000 high school dropouts’ participation in ABS programs. The study assessed their literacy skills and skill uses over time, along with changes in their social, educational, and economic status, to provide a more comprehensive representation of adult literacy development.