Strengthening the Link Between Upskill America and WIOA

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

    A circle graph depicts the race and ethinicity of low-skilled frontline workers as listed in the text; a bar chart shows the first language of frontline workers is English (58.2%), Spanish (33.6%) and Other (8.2).

    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.[1]

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.

 

[1]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.

Get Involved in the National Week of Making

The National Week of Making is quickly approaching! We are less than one month away from the June 17th kick-off! There are plenty of ways you can get involved.

Learn about the National Week of MakingPhoto of White House made of Lego blocks

Webinars are being held to provide information about the National Week of Making. The next webinar is being held on Thursday, May 19, at 12:00 pm Eastern Time. If you are not able to make that session, there will be an additional webinar next week. Registration links are provided below:

Webinar Schedule (all times Eastern):

Make a commitment

Let the White House know what new actions, commitments, or other activities you or your organization might be considering by going to the Nation of Makers website and submitting your information on the “What are you making?” form.

Nominate a Champion of Change

If you know someone who has had a significant impact on moving Making forward, you can nominate them as a Champion of Change. As part of the National Week of Making, the White House will be sharing stories of the countless leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs, and educators who work daily within their local communities across the country. The Administration wants your help to identify Champions of Change who are working to make advances in technology, platforms, educational opportunities, or spaces that empower even more Americans to become tinkerers, inventors, and entrepreneurs.

Nominations must be submitted by Wednesday May 18, 2016 (it just takes 5 minutes). You can read more about the call for nominations on the White House Blog and submit nominations at https://www.whitehouse.gov/champions.

Learn about the CTE Makeover Challenge

OCTAE launched the CTE Makeover Challenge to encourage more makerspaces in high schools. Contact your local high school to see if they were one of the more than 600 schools that entered the Challenge. You can learn more information about the Challenge at CTEMakeoverChallenge.com. The CTE Makeover Bootcamp phase of the Challenge will be concluding on May 22 when schools will submit Blueprints for their makerspaces. Stay tuned on #CTEMakeover.

Local activities

We are looking forward to the National Week of Making and invite you to join forces with us from June 17th through the 23rd and get involved in your local community. Here are a few ways folks in the maker community are already active:

  • Posting photos using #NationOfMakers to show your latest creation and share news about your events.
  • Organizing an event and/or hosting an open house at your local school, library, rec center, makerspace or set up a hangout online to connect and share your inventions with Makers across the country. Some have posted their events on a community website such as weekofmaking.org
  • Volunteering to be a mentor for someone who is interested in learning a new skill or find a mentor who would be interested in teaching a new skill you’ve been wanting to learn for a while.
  • Organizing a maker roundtable, maker town hall, or maker tour to convene thought leaders and decision makers in your community. (See what was done in Cleveland.)
  • Your brilliant idea here!

Stay updated

More information about the National Week of Making, National Maker Faire, and Making can be found on the following websites, and share your thoughts and ideas using the following hashtags.

Seeking Colleges Interested in Stackable Credentials

Mapping Upward: Stackable Credentials That Lead to Careers

Technical Assistance will be available to community colleges under a new initiative launched by OCTAE. “Mapping Upward” will provide technical assistance to five networks of community and/or technical colleges as they work to embed stackable, industry-recognized credentials within technical associate degree programs.

A webinar is being held May 3 to provide more information on the project and its goals.

Each of the five networks of colleges will consist of two to four community colleges that will develop action plans specific to the workforce needs of their communities while benefiting from the sector-focused peer learning community of the network.

The five teams will be selected through an application process that closes on May 18. The selected teams will participate in an institute in July and will receive customized assistance from subject matter experts and a dedicated coach who will guide their network through needs assessments, goal setting, and action planning. Over a year, the colleges will gain insights into stackable credential design, employer engagement, the alignment of industry certifications, faculty collaboration, awarding of credit, and credit transfer agreements.

You can find more information on the project on the Perkins Collaborative Resource Network along with a link to register for the webinar to be held on May 3.

Posted by
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.

Call to Participate in the Task Force on New Americans’ National Skills and Credential Institute

This blog is cross-posted from the White House site.

As President Obama recently reminded us, “We can never say it often or loudly enough: Immigrants and refugees revitalize and renew America.” Many immigrants and refugees arrive in the United States having already completed extensive education and job training, or with significant work experience abroad. However, all too often they face challenges to fully utilizing these skills. Yet as the White House Task Force on New Americans One-Year Progress Report highlighted, there are communities that are developing programs to help skilled immigrants return to their careers in their new home.

The Task Force is seeking to support communities that are focused on finding solutions to this challenge through its National Skills and Credential Institute. This peer-learning forum aims to connect a consortium of leaders from state and local workforce areas; adult and post-secondary education systems and institutions; representatives from departments of labor, licensing, and regulatory affairs; immigrant serving organizations; and external technical assistance providers. The goal of this institute is to help communities understand how policies and practices help or hinder credential attainment and recognition, and to assist in developing strategies for how the public, private and nonprofit sectors can strengthen career pathways for skilled immigrants.

The Task Force will host this exciting forum at the White House, in partnership with the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Labor on June 29, 2016. Communities are invited to submit a letter of interest by May 1, 2016.

To learn more about this exciting opportunity, click here.

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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Pell Grants for Dual Enrollment: A Promising Model

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.

Photo of Johan Uvin

Johan E. Uvin
Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE)

Connecting Highest Degree Earned to Cognitive Skills

The following is the introduction to a post that appears on the National Center for Education Statistics Blog

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.

Posted by
Education Program Specialist, OCTAE

Throwing Down the Gauntlet for Professional Development

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.

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LINCS Learner Center Launched for Adult Education and Family Literacy Week

LINCS Learner Center Topic Icons

LINCS Learner Center Homepage

 

OCTAE has launched an online center to direct adult learners to free, high-quality resources related to education, job and life skills. The LINCS Learner Center complements OCTAE’s priority goal to make on-demand learning available for teachers and students.

A call to action in OCTAE’s February 2015 report, Making Skills Everyone’s Business: A Call to Transform Adult Learning in the United States, identified the need and potential to reach more low-skilled adults through online, on-demand tools.

The Learner Center, opening during the 2015 National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, #AEFLWeek, is a gateway to resources from many federal agencies and organizations. Resources accessed through the site can help adult learners improve their reading, writing, math, science, and English skills; build job skills; acquire an understanding of American government and history to obtain citizenship; and find a nearby adult education, computer training, or postsecondary education or training program.

Developed to be mobile-friendly, the site brings resources to learners in class, on the go, and at home. This feature can extend users’ learning time and accelerate their skill development.

Share the site with your teachers and learners and re-tweet alerts from @LINCS_ED. Help amplify OCTAE’s reach by posting the following message to your own social media network:

Help #adultedu learners improve their English, get job skills & more. Point new users to free resources at the Learner Center!

The initial site is a beta version, designed to join the national conversation about digital tools for adult learners. Future phases will incorporate more tools, features, and partners. OCTAE applauds ongoing work to stimulate the marketplace and ed-tech development. Stay tuned and get involved!

 

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.”