The President’s Upskill Initiative: 1 Year Later

See a summary at the White House blog of an event that spotlighted how employers nationwide have answered the President’s call to train frontline workers with the skills to earn higher-paying jobs.

Image shows 8 out of 10 low-skilled workers are parents

8 out of 10 low-skilled workers are parents

Supporting materials:

OCTAE fact sheet on the profile of lower-skilled working-age (16 to 65 years old) adults, their highest level of education attained, in which industries they are employed, and how much they are earning, on average, for the work they do. Data from the Survey for Adult Skills 2012/2014.

Information from the Department of Labor on how businesses can engage in the workforce system here.

To learn more about what outside groups and employers are doing to support upskilling, visit UpskillAmerica.org.

Skills in Sharper Focus: The PIAAC National Supplement

The U.S. National Supplement of the Survey of Adult Skills, Skills of U.S. Unemployed, Young, and Older Adults in Sharper Focus: Results from the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) 2012/2014: First Look, released on March 10, 2016, provides an update and extension of the initial U.S. PIAAC[1] data, reported in 2013. The Survey provides direct measures of working-age adults’ cognitive skills based on their performance on literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving tasks set in real-life contexts. Performance is reported on a scale of 1-5 for literacy and numeracy and a scale of 1-3 for digital problem solving. It pairs these measures with a background questionnaire that asks about the use of skills at work and in daily life, work history, and other social, behavioral, and demographic indicators.

The National Supplement, collected in 2014, augments the 2012 data collection with an enriched sample of young adults (age 16-34), unemployed adults (age 16-65), and older adults (age 65-74) in the United States. A sample of incarcerated adults is expected to be released in summer 2016. Additionally, the newly released data uses updated U.S. Census data, resulting in adjusted estimates. As a result, the data reveal that the percentage of the U.S. population age 16-65 with college experience (some college or a college degree) increased by 3-4 percent and the percentage of the population age 16-65 with less than a high school diploma decreased by 4 percent.[2] This adjustment is evident in a slight upward adjustment of the U.S. performance in literacy to being on par with the international average, relative to the 2013 report.

The skills of older adults (66-74) were surveyed in the newly released data for the first time. The previous survey of this population’s literacy and numeracy skills was in 2003 as part of the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL)[3]. The Survey of Adult Skills includes older adults’ skills in digital problem solving, information that will be of great interest to senior digital literacy designers and advocates.

Other select findings include:

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Strengthening Working Families Initiatives: $25M Funding Opportunity

This is a cross-posted announcement from the Department of Labor. 

DOL announces $25 million available for partnerships that improve access to education and training and quality, affordable child care for parents looking to expand their skills.

These grants reflect the Obama administration’s commitment to support working families and fuel policies aligned with 21st Century workforce realities.

To help parents obtain affordable, quality child care necessary to pursue education and training opportunities leading to good jobs in growing industries, the U.S. Department of Labor today on December 17 the availability of up to $25 million in grants through the Strengthening Working Families Initiative.

The grants will support public-private partnerships that bridge gaps between local workforce development and child-care systems. In addition to addressing these systemic barriers, funded programs will enable parents to access training and customized supportive services needed for IT, health care, advanced manufacturing jobs, and others. All participants in grant funded programs must be custodial parents, legal guardians, foster parents, or others standing in loco parentis with at least one dependent. Up to 25 percent of the grantees total budget may be used to provide quality, affordable care and other services to support their participation in training.

“For too many working parents, access to quality, affordable child care remains a persistent barrier to getting the training and education they need to move forward on a stronger, more sustainable career path,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “Our economy works best when we field a full team. That means doing everything we can to provide flexible training options and streamlined services that can help everyone in America realize their dreams.”

Grants up to $4 million will be awarded to partnerships that include the public workforce system, education and training providers, business entities, and local child-care or human-service providers. In addition, all partnerships must include at least three employers. Grantees will also be required to secure an amount equal to at least 25 percent of the total requested funds through outside leveraged resources.

The department will award grants in spring 2016 with program activities beginning in July 2016. For additional information and to apply, read the full funding opportunity announcement online at Grants.gov.

Strengthening Transportation Career Pathways

The article is cross-posted on the Department of Transportation Fast Lane Blog

The U.S. Departments of Transportation, Education, and Labor kicked off the week with some good news today, releasing a joint report, “Strengthening Skills Training and Career Pathways across the Transportation Industry.”

The new report details future employment hot spots in transportation by industry subsectors, occupations, career areas, and geographic areas. It also identifies good-paying, high-demand transportation jobs and analyzes patterns in the education and work experience required for entry –as well as on-the-job training requirements to help new entrants gain greater competency.

The report concludes that there will be more job opportunities in the near future due to expected growth, retirements, and turnover in the transportation industry. Each year, the U.S. Department of Transportation provides over $51 billion in surface transportation construction funding to build and maintain our Nation’s highways, bridges, and public transportation systems. For every $1 billion in transportation infrastructure investments, 13,000 jobs are projected to be created over the next decade.

But those opportunities won’t fill themselves. Employers will need to hire and train a total of 4.6 million new workers; that’s 1.2 times the current transportation workforce. As U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said, “Industry and government must increase recruitment and help young people get the skills, training, and apprenticeships they need to gain entry into these careers.”

Recruiting and training new and current workers responsible for the operation, maintenance, and construction of America’s transportation infrastructure will be critical to maintaining a system that meets the economic and security needs of a growing American population.

“Ensuring that America continues to lead the way in the global economy means not only investing in the physical infrastructure that allows us to move goods and keep up with global demand, but also the skills infrastructure to support this growing workforce,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “Through smart investments in apprenticeships and other work-based training programs, transportation jobs are helping millions of Americans punch their tickets to the middle class.”

While demand for transportation workers will vary by region, subsector, and occupation, these workforce changes will result in increased job opportunities for skilled and semi-skilled workers across the transportation sector.

“In today’s society, it is important that all of our students are well-equipped with the knowledge and skills to compete in a global economy,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “There are incredible opportunities for Americans in the transportation industry and the Department is fully committed to working with leaders in the industry to promote partnerships between education and workforce institutions in order to support training programs that will help our country succeed.”

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act – One-Year Anniversary

Last Wednesday marked one year since the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was signed into law by President Obama. OCTAE sent a special anniversary message to our State Directors. That message included a video from Secretaries Duncan and Perez who jointly commemorated the anniversary of WIOA’s passage. We wanted to share these messages with all of you.

Integrating Employability Skills: A Framework for All Educators

On Thursday, July 16, 2015, the College and Career Readiness and Success (CCRS) Center, in partnership with the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders (GTL) and RTI International, released Integrating Employability Skills: A Framework for All Educators. This professional learning module—a collection of customizable, train-the-trainer materials—is designed to support regional comprehensive centers, state educational agency staff, adult education programs, and state regional centers in building their knowledge and capacity to integrate and prioritize employability skills at the state and local levels.

The module includes PowerPoint slides, handouts, a sample agenda, a workbook, tools for individuals or state work groups, and a facilitator’s guide designed to accomplish the following:

  • Introduce participants to the Employability Skills Framework and its importance
  • Connect employability skills with other education initiatives
  • Provide tools and strategies to prioritize employability skills at all levels

For more information about the module and to view the CCRS Center’s guidelines for use, please visit their website here.

To learn more about the Employability Skills Framework itself, please visit its homepage.

Posted by
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.

Workforce Innovation Fund Grants Now Available Through the Department of Labor

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.

Grant applications are due by July 23, 2015. Information on applying for this grant is now available.

Interested applicants are encouraged to visit www.doleta.gov/workforce_innovation to learn more about the Workforce Innovation Fund, and to find tools and resources to support application development. A tutorial for on applying for grants is also available online.

Upskill America: More Education and Training for Front-line Workers

YouTube video of Vice President Speaking at Upskill

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?

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Closing the Equity Gap

“We must close the equity gap for immigrants, refugees, returning citizens, and all adults with disabilities.” – Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier

Rigoberto Alvarado left El Salvador in 1991 in search of a better life in the United States. He needed English and a job. With the help of friends and family, he found an English class at the Neighborhood Centers’ Oakland Adult and Career Education. He started learning English. He found a job he liked in the hospitality industry. But he quickly realized he needed more skills in order to advance, so he returned to Neighborhood Centers to learn about computers and computer applications. Through hard work and dedication to his education, Rigoberto advanced through the ranks to become banquet manager at the Waterfront Hotel in Jack London Square. He now hires and supervises many employees, manages costs and inventories, and strives to create a positive employee work environment. Rigoberto put himself on the path to the middle class.

As Rigoberto’s experience indicates, employment-focused literacy and numeracy, as well as job skills are critical to the prosperity and well-being of individuals. One third of the 36 million adults with low skills in our country are immigrants or refugees like Rigoberto but they have not yet had the opportunities he has had. Our current programs can only offer English language learning opportunities to about 678,000 adult English learners per year. Unless we create additional opportunities for them, these twelve million adults will have a harder time finding a well-paying job than their higher skilled peers.

Making Skills Everyone’s Business – which was released on February 24 – makes a commitment to closing the equity gap for immigrants and refugees and other adults with multiple barriers including adults with disabilities, returning citizens, homeless adults, and emancipated youth transitioning out of the foster care system. Closing the equity gap is one of the seven strategies included in this national call to transform adult learning.

Data from the Survey of Adult Skills support this strategy. For instance, adults with learning disabilities are twice as likely to have low skills but few programs are equipped to meet these adult learners’ unique needs. Twenty-six percent of adults at Level 1 and 9 percent of those below Level 1 reported a learning disability. The figure below, Figure 9 in the Making Skills Everyone’s Business report, demonstrates the challenge.

This chart shows that 8 percent of U.S. adults ages 16–65 answered yes to a question about whether they have ever been diagnosed or identified as having a learning disability; 92 percent answered no. Of those who answered yes, 35 percent had low literacy skills; that is, they scored below Level 2. Of those who answered no, 17 percent had low literacy skills.

Percentage of U.S. adults ages 16–65 at each level of proficiency on the PIAAC literacy scale, by their responses to a question about whether they have ever been diagnosed or identified as having a learning disability

One subpopulation that requires our attention and commitment are older youth and adults in our correctional facilities. Data on the skills of the incarcerated and on returning citizens are forthcoming, as the National Center for Educations Statistics is completing data collection on a representative sample of institutionalized individuals. Conclusive data are available, however, that show that career-oriented education is one of the more effective interventions that contribute to significant reductions in recidivism according to a recent meta-analysis, Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education, conducted by the Rand Corporation. OCTAE’s expanding investments in adult and youth reentry education programs and the expanded provisions for corrections education in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act are just the beginning. We need to work directly with employers to create pathways from prison to good jobs.

Partnerships with employers, employment and training agencies, agencies that can support wrap around support services, and integrated education and training programs that simultaneously provide skills remediation and postsecondary education and training are doable and can create real opportunities. But these partnerships and services demand more resources. In addition to demanding resources, we should have the political will to create more opportunities.

When I traveled all across the country gathering input for Making Skills Everyone’s Business, adult learners told me repeatedly that they are ready to take advantage of the opportunities to improve their skills. Let’s work together to make it happen.

Guest Author: Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier is the former Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education. Dann-Messier launched the national engagement process that resulted in Making Skills Everyone’s Business.

Job-Driven Training: Next Steps

“This [work] is really about the future of the middle class.” That is how U.S. Secretary of Labor Perez framed the work of The Skills Working Group (Work Group), earlier this week. Secretary Perez brought Cabinet members together to talk about how the Administration can make sure that everyone has the skills they need to get a job or get ahead. Members of the Work Group identified priorities and projects to focus their joint work. They discussed how best to maintain a national focus on skills and maintain interagency collaboration on skills beyond 2016.

In November 2014, Perez launched the Work Group, an effort to keep the momentum of the Job-Driven Training Initiative. This initiative is making sure that youth and adults leaving our education and training programs have the skills businesses need. Thirteen federal agencies, the White House National Economic Council, and the Office of Management and Budget make up the Work 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 Work Group coordinates activities across these various agencies.

Overview of Job-Driven Training Milestones:

Jan. 2014 State of the Union: President Obama announces Job-Driven Training initiative and asks Vice President Biden to lead a federal government wide review of job training programs.

Feb-Jun 2014 Job-Driven Training Review: White House and agencies develop job-driven checklist and review job-training programs across 13 agencies.

July 2014 Ready to Work Job Driven Training Initiative Report: White House releases job-driven training report with the results of the job-driven review and an action plan for moving forward, including:

  • Steps to make competitive and formula program more “job-driven”
  • Collaborative efforts across agencies to better align systems, braid funding, and enhance coordination
  • A call to action around long-term unemployment, upskilling, and tech hiring

Nov. 2014 Skills Working Group Launched: Launch of the interagency Skills Working Group in November 2014 to maintain focus and attention around interagency, collaborative efforts component of job-driven training initiative, as well as emerging opportunities around cross-agency skills coordination.

Dec. 2014 Sub-Committees Meet: Skills Working Group deputies establish sub-committees that met in December and over the holidays to develop initial project work plans.

Jan. 2015 State of the Union: President Obama acknowledges the success of Vice President Biden’s job-driven training initiative and highlights apprenticeship and upskilling.

Members presented the goals, objectives, activities, and expected outcomes developed by interagency work teams focused on four topics. Secretary Perez presented on apprenticeship. Secretary Moniz discussed possible pilots for better coordination around skills in targeted communities. Secretary Pritzker introduced technology innovations. And we discussed efforts to increase the skills of 24 million front-line workers so they can advance to higher-paying jobs. We also talked about ways to get more states involved in creating career pathway programs.

Following these mini-presentations, we spoke about what we are already doing and about what more we can do together.

We left the meeting with a clear sense of direction to develop and implement together a comprehensive strategy to solve America’s skills challenge.

Guest Bloggers: Johan E. Uvin is the Acting Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education. Carmen Drummond is a Special Assistant and Policy Advisor in the Office of the Assistant Secretary. Uvin and Drummond are facilitating the career pathways and upskilling work stream of The Skills Working Group.