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.
8 out of 10 low-skilled workers are parents
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.
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. 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). 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.
Categories of educational attainment – or highest degree earned – are often used in social science research as an indicator of a person’s knowledge and skills. This measure is objective and readily available, easily understood by survey respondents as well as by consumers of research and survey data, strongly tied to policies (such as those promoting high school graduation and college completion rates), and widely used in the labor market by employers. Moreover, strong connections between educational attainment and positive life outcomes, such as employment, earnings, health, and civic engagement, are well established.
The article compares the direct measures of cognitive skills with the highest level of educational attainment as reported in the 2012 Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) survey. You can read the full story on the National Center for Education Statistics Blog.
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.
Data from the OECD Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies’ Survey of Adult Skills, which tested adult skills in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments, found that 36 million Americans have low literacy skills, nearly 24 million of whom are part of the workforce. In addition, nearly 46 million Americans struggle with numeracy. These skills issues have significant negative impacts on individuals, their families, and their communities. In contrast, higher skills are linked to improved economic and social outcomes, such as better employment, earnings, and health; social mobility; and greater civic engagement. To address the need to connect so many Americans with learning opportunities, OCTAE has released the report Making Skills Everyone’s Business: A Call to Transform Adult Learning in the United States.
See the recorded video announcement about the report from Acting Assistant Secretary Johan E. Uvin.
Recorded Video Message by Johan E. Uvin
Grounded in evidence and informed by effective and emerging practices, Making Skills Everyone’s Business offers seven strategies that hold great promise for improving the conditions that create and perpetuate poor literacy, numeracy, and problem solving. These strategies do not distinguish between public and private obligation, nor do they compartmentalize actions at the federal, state, regional, tribal, or local levels. Instead, they are based on the principle of shared responsibility and acknowledge that America’s skills challenge is too large to address by any stakeholder group independently.
Many OCTAE stakeholders contributed to the development of this report through attending engagement events or hosting roundtables on adult skills in their own communities. OCTAE greatly appreciates all of the input we received and the ongoing commitment to excellent services for youth and adult students.
Please spread the word about this new report by forwarding the link and accompanying video to your community stakeholders. Together, we can empower teachers, tutors, workforce development specialists, librarians, and other practitioners serving adult learners to develop collective strategies that provide all U.S. adults the opportunity to improve their foundation skills and access middle-class careers.
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.
OCTAE is collaborating with the U.S. National Institutes of Health, specifically the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child and Human Development (NICHD) and the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR), to sponsor a call for research papers on the relationship of education and skills to public health for adults and their families, particularly for those most at risk for poor educational, economic, and health outcomes. This collaboration reflects a shared commitment to increasing the evidence base for the work that these agencies perform and to making that evidence freely available for all.
The theme of the call is: Improving the Lives of Adults and Families: Identifying Individual and Systems-level Factors Relating Education, Health, Civic Engagement, and Economic Well-being. This effort leverages and extends the recent Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on U.S. Health in International Perspective as well as the recently released Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) cross-national, population-representative dataset, the Survey of Adult Skills, part of the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), to hone in on issues specific to the U.S. and allow for rich international comparisons.
Note that the U.S. PIAAC Background Questionnaire includes questions on health status, health insurance coverage, sources of information about health issues, and preventive health practices (based on age and gender). Online learning modules for the PIAAC dataset are available.
OCTAE, NICHD, and OBSSR plan to cover the publication fees associated with a select number of initial publications for this Collection. Authors interested in applying for financial consideration by these groups should submit a preliminary draft paper for funding consideration by September 15, 2015 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
See the full Call for Papers on the Public Library of Science (PLOS) blog site. PLOS is a peer-reviewed, highly competitive, open source journal that publishes online, freely-available articles related to science, medicine, and health. The Collection is essentially an open-ended special issue where related articles can be easily grouped. The Collection will stay open for additional articles past the initial deadline for consideration.
Like NCES’s First Look report, the PIAAC Results Portal reports average scores and proficiency levels in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments. It can be used to compare U.S. performance to the international average and to the average in any or all participating countries.
You can also dig a little deeper by examining the data by a variety of characteristics. For example, if you are interested in how U.S. adults with different levels of educational attainment performed in literacy, you can create a table based on educational attainment variables. Likewise, if you are interested in what skills adults use at home and at work and how the use of these skills relates to performance in numeracy, you can look at that as well. There are many other variables to explore.
To make your searches easier, NCES has created profiles for two key subgroups, found under “Employment Status.” For example, the characteristics included in the “unemployed” subgroup profile include age, gender, race/ethnicity, U.S. born, and educational attainment. In addition to these characteristics, the “employed” subgroup profile includes occupation, industry of employment, and level of gross pay. After you have created your customized table, you have the option to export your data table to Excel.
The Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) launched a national engagement effort on November 20 (see archived announcement) to explore ways to increase our national capacity to improve the foundation skills of adults in the United States. OVAE is particularly interested in engaging with adult educators to solicit their input into a forthcoming national action plan.
This webinar will be an opportunity to receive a briefing on the PIAAC data, the OECD’s special report on America’s low-skilled population, Time for the U.S. to Reskill?, and engage in a focused discussion about the issues facing adult education.
To prepare for the webinar, see the Consultation Paper, which provides background on the skills issue and the framework for the national action plan. The discussion will continue online in various groups within the LINCS Community of Practice.
Register here for the webinar and help us spread the word among practitioners!
Adults with low literacy skills are four times more likely to report poor to fair health than adults with higher skills. This is two times the international average according to recent data from the Survey of Adult Skills (October, 2013), which is part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC).
This correlation between skills and health presents great challenges to both the individual and his or her healthcare providers to communicate and address the prevention, management, and treatment of disease and healthy behaviors. Poor literacy, numeracy, and problem solving skills adversely affect health care, health information access, health outcomes, and appear to limit engagement in positive, preventative behaviors. At a time when the U.S. is spending more than $2 trillion a year on healthcare ($2.5 trillion in 2009, according to the Surgeon General’s National Prevention Strategy), even a fraction of improved outcomes could save millions of dollars. As a reference, the U.S. federal investment in the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA), which funds adult basic education and English proficiency classes, is $563 million.
U.S. adults ages 16-65 performed poorly on all measures of the Survey of Adult Skills, with average scores below international averages in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in a technology-rich environment. While there are high performers in each domain, the U.S. population has a greater proportion of adults of working age with low skills (defined as below Level 2 on a five level scale) than the comparison countries (see more about the findings here).
The relationship between skills and health provides a strong case for investing in upskilling adults. The economic returns to skill development are clearly demonstrated in the Survey through the correlation of skills to higher wages, more permanent employment, and greater use of skills on the job. The returns to improved health are likely to be at least as important. A healthier workforce is more productive with fewer days lost to illness. The healthcare costs of poor health literacy is demonstrated through higher costs for service, more emergency room visits, and fewer preventative services accessed.
There is a great opportunity to think about addressing skills and health simultaneously in a more holistic approach, as called for in the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy, issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2010. Embedding opportunities for skill development and practice in community health efforts is an underutilized approach. While contextualizing literacy in the context of health has been a promising practice, see resources at the LINCS Health Literacy Collection, too little has been done to use community-based health interventions as the anchor for literacy and numeracy interventions.
Community health workers – whether in hospitals, health centers, private primary care practices or as part of home health care or visiting nurse services – can help low-skilled adults apply the skills they do have to the immediate situation. Health professionals can use plain language and teach back methods of communication, and work closely with local educational service providers to make referrals more seamless and less stigmatized. Similarly, adult education workers can assist individuals with accessing health care, finding insurance, following treatment instructions, applying literacy and numeracy skills to everyday practices, and providing navigation assistance to services that can enhance healthy behavior. Services could be co-located for greater coordination and impact. Cross-training or shared training and professional development within a community could strengthen relationships and referral networks.
The Survey of Adult Skills (OECD, 2013) is clear that skills and quality of life issues are deeply interrelated, especially in the United States. The findings echo a recent report from the Institute of Medicine, U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health. Communities need to address these challenges as related, not separate issues, and find the means to take a holistic view of the quality of life issues faced by low-skilled, low-income, and low-English proficient populations when proposing solutions. Conducting a local health needs assessment and asset map of existing challenges, resources, and future growth projections can be a way to engage the community. Prevention and health safety campaigns are ideal opportunities to involve the full range of family-serving organizations in a community.
In November 2013, the U.S. Department of Education launched a national engagement effort to explore ways to increase our national capacity to improve the foundation skills of adults in the United States. Regional events have been held through the winter and communities are being asked to provide input and feedback from their own locally-hosted roundtable discussions to inform a national action plan.
In order to assist communities in hosting roundtable discussions, the Department created a set of resources and an online submission form. See www.TimetoReskill.org for the following tools:
Consultation Paper, a 10-page paper that can be shared in advance of an event to provide background on the skills issue and the framework for the national action plan.
Toolkit, a step-by-step guide to running a local roundtable from types of people to invite to the questions to pose.
Online feedback form for submitting feedback. (Please submit comments by March 14 to be considered in the Plan.)
We hope community health partners will be part of the solution! Consider hosting a roundtable discussion in your area and contributing to the national action plan.
Johan Uvin is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Strategic Initiatives at the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education