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.
As part of her Reach Higher initiative, the First Lady will deliver remarks at the Celebrating Innovations in Career and Technical Education (CTE) event, hosted by the White House in partnership with the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education. In her remarks, Mrs.Obama will celebrate students and educators for their work connecting the classroom to real-life career opportunities.
Students and educators selected through a competitive process run by the Association for Career and Technical Education, as well as schools selected by the National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Education, will attend this event in South Court Auditorium. Together, these individuals and programs represent a wide range of accomplishment in the field that is preparing students for success in school and beyond. Over the course of the day, the White House will showcase student projects and lead discussions with education leaders, business and industry representatives, and policy makers on how the best CTE programs can be replicated and expanded.
This event follows the release of an Executive Order expanding the United States Presidential Scholars program to establish a new category of outstanding scholars in CTE. In case you missed it, additional information about the E.O. can be found here.
This event is open press and will be livestreamed at wh.gov/live.
Olivia Wood is a summer intern for the College and Career Transitions branch of the Division of Academic and Technical Education in the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education.
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.
Tens of thousands of practitioners and policymakers across our country have worked tirelessly over the last few years to ensure that “vocational” education–as our parents knew it–is over. Catalyzed by the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006, the Administration’s 2012 Blueprint for Transforming Career and Technical Education, and the work of major national organizations such as National Association for State Directors of Career and Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) and the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), there has been tremendous growth in availability of high-quality “career and technical” education (CTE) programs to equip students for success in postsecondary education and careers in our global economy.
These high-quality CTE programs are exactly what we want to support in a reauthorized Perkins bill. Programs that are aligned to labor market demand. Programs that require collaboration among secondary, postsecondary, business/industry, and other key partners. Programs that are accountable for academic, technical, and employability outcomes for students, based on common definitions and clear metrics for performance. Programs that capitalize on innovations in state and local policies and practice. And, programs that assure full access and equity by students regardless of background or circumstances.
Despite our efforts and the availability of high-quality CTE programs, there remains an unfortunate stigma surrounding CTE. Too many students do not know about these rigorous pathways into postsecondary education and a well-paying job or rewarding career. Too many parents think about CTE using their own experiences with “shop class” as a reference. Too many members of the general public who have yet to learn that CTE is not only a viable, rigorous option, but a path into the middle class.
This Administration is committed to doing its part to change the perceptions of CTE. On Monday, June 22, President Obama signed an Executive Order expanding the U. S. Presidential Scholars Program to include students who demonstrate scholarship, ability, and accomplishment in CTE. This Executive Order builds on great collaboration between the executive and legislative branches of government, and reflects the hard work of teams of individuals at the White House, on the Hill, and in the Department. We are extremely grateful for this effort. It moves CTE out of the periphery and raises it to a level of federally-recognized prestige on par with traditional academic pathways and the arts.
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.
NASAFACS President, Gayla Randel addresses the audience
The Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education recently held a briefing to learn how Family and Consumer Sciences Education is contributing to the Administration’s education priorities.
State leaders of the National Association of State Administrators of Family and Consumer Sciences (NASAFACS) addressed the importance of career-ready foundation for all youth and adults, and explained how its programs, standards, and instructional strategies are preparing students to succeed in their careers and communities. In particular, the audience heard how Family and Consumer Sciences Education improves college and career readiness and workforce success by addressing foundational STEM literacy, 21st century employability skills development, and the technical skills in career clusters with high labor demand.
A NASAFACS delegation attended the briefing during its visit to Washington D.C. for its annual meeting.
Gayla Randel, the 2014-15 President of NASAFACS, explained how Family and Consumer Sciences provides foundational life skill development, employability skills education, and workforce education and training through more than 27,000 middle and secondary level teachers who reach approximately 3.5 million students annually. These students represent a range of diverse communities in large and small educational systems and from all geographic locations in the United States.
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.
National SkillsUSA Executive Director, Tim Lawrence, and SkillsUSA Massachusetts Director, Karen Ward, cut the birthday cake. President Brooke Johnson looks on.
SkillsUSA celebrated its 50th anniversary on May 8th at its National Leadership Center in Leesburg, Virginia, by celebrating with a Founders Day to recognize the contributions of its members, their instructors, administrators, state association directors, industry partners and alumni.
Some of the event highlights included a dedication of the new entryway of the Leadership Center, designed and constructed by students, memories and testimonies shared among charter members, state directors, and former members, and the opening of the 25th Anniversary Time Capsule.
SkillsUSA 2014-15 Presidents Brooke Johnson, NC and Ahmad Shawwal, VA, at the podium during the flag raising ceremony of the 50th Anniversary of SkillUSA celebrations.
Over its 50 years, cumulative membership is more than 11.9 million. The 2014-15 membership of SkillsUSA is 360,404. Its first conference in Nashville, Tennessee 50 years ago brought 200 students, teachers and administrators together. Last year more than 16,000 attended the annual National Leadership and Skills Conference.
SkillsUSA was founded as the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America (VICA) with a goal of establishing a nationwide organization to represent trade and industrial education and serve students’ needs. VICA was changed to SkillsUSA in 2004 but what has not changed is the organization’s commitment to help students discover career interests, develop relevant skills to compete globally, and value their own self-worth. SkillsUSA continues to reach toward the founders’ vision, whether it’s fulfilling the 1965 motto of “Preparing for Leadership in the World of Work” or helping to develop today’s “Champions at Work”.
SkillsUSA and is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. SkillsUSA helps each student excel by providing educational programs, events and competitions that support career and technical education (CTE) in the nation’s classrooms.
You can find more information about SkillsUSA on their website at SkillsUSA.org.
Robin Utz serves as the chief for the College and Career Transitions branch in the Division of Academic and Technical Education (DATE) for Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) at the US Department of Education.