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.

Guidance Released on Ability to Benefit Pell Eligibility

Federal Student Aid (FSA) office released guidance on Pell grant eligibility for students without a high school diploma (or its recognized equivalent) who are enrolled in career pathways. This Pell eligibility category, also known as Ability to Benefit,  was partially restored in December 2014 and through amendments passed in December of 2015.

FSA provides in the new guidance clarification of an eligible career pathway program and implementation information for the new provisions. The definition of career pathways in the guidance is aligned to that in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

See the statement posted by FSA, which links to the Dear Colleague Letter and Questions and Answers on implementation.

LINCS PD Center: A New Model

LINCS logo: states Literacy Information and Communication System

LINCS logo

OCTAE is procuring services to establish a professional development center, the LINCS Professional Development (PD) Center. This Center will encompass and replace the four regional professional development centers that have been funded as cooperative agreements since they came to OCTAE from the National Institute for Literacy in 2010. At a webinar for prospective vendors and partners held on March 16, OCTAE shared the new model and its grounding in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA, PL 113-128) changes to requirements for state and national leadership activities.

The LINCS PD Center will assist states to leverage the many resources and capabilities in the LINCS system to meet two WIOA requirements for state leadership activities:

(1)“The establishment or operation of high quality professional development programs to improve…instruction.” (Sec 223 (a)1(B))

(2)“The provision of technical assistance to eligible providers of adult education and literacy activities receiving funds under this title, including—

  • the development and dissemination of instructional and programmatic practices based on the most rigorous or scientifically valid research available and appropriate, in reading, writing, speaking, mathematics, English language acquisition programs, distance education, and staff training;
  • the role of eligible providers as a one-stop partner to provide access to employment, education, and training services; and
  • assistance in the use of technology, including for staff training, to eligible providers, especially the use of technology to improve system efficiencies.” (Sec 223 (a)1(C))

The current LINCS system has a wealth of resources that can help States meet their requirements, including:

  • Online courses
  • Online Community of Practice platform
  • In-person training packages
  • Talent pool
  • Tools and resources

Technical assistance provided by the LINCS PD Center will support states in the establishment or operation of their own state-based program, or the establishment of a regional consortium to establish such a program; make available existing and developed LINCS high-quality PD resources and experiences that serve to disseminate information on evidence-based instruction and programming; and support adult education programs and instructors to be effective partners in the public workforce system.

Because state agencies have various models for PD systems already in place and to varying degrees of central coordination, the LINCS PD Center will establish a tiered menu of services to meet the varied needs and to allow for and support localization of the offerings. This menu will provide tiers and options of services to assist with PD program establishment or operation and with dissemination of LINCS’ PD resources and learning experiences.

The new Center will be awarded in August, 2016. The regional professional development center grants will conclude September 30, 2016. Questions about the procurement process may be addressed to Pamela.Bone@ed.gov.

For more information on WIOA, see OCTAE’s resource page.

 

Join a Webinar: Education – A Key Service in WIOA

Logo displays One Team; One Vision; One Conversation

Logo from 2016 WIOA National Convening

March 1, 2:45-4:00pm ET

Join at this link, with password DeptofED1! (No pre-registration required.)

Call in to 888-790-4881, participant code 9552347#.

Education: A Key Service in WIOA. All national survey and economic data points to the importance of youth and adults gaining strong foundation skills, completing high school equivalence, and earning industry-recognized certificates and degrees in order to gain economic stability and self-sufficiency. WIOA offers multiple coordination points and opportunities with educational institutions at every level to get clients moving ahead.

Panelists include:

  • Janet LaBreck, Commissioner, Rehabilitation Services Administration
  • Johan Uvin, Acting Assistant Secretary, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education
  • Michael Yudin, Assistant Secretary, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services

This panel discussion was cancelled at the WIOA National Convening in January to accommodate delayed arrivals due to weather. The webinar is open to public participation. Please plan to join and invite colleagues to do so as well.

Find resources from the WIOA National Convening, including PowerPoints, the participant list, etc., here.

 

 

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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Request for Comments on WIOA Performance Information Collection

The Departments of Labor and Education are soliciting comments concerning a collection of data that will be used to demonstrate that specified performance levels under the WIOA have been achieved. The WIOA Performance Management, Information, and Reporting System fulfills requirements in section 116(d) (1) of the act for the development of report templates for 1) the State Performance Report for WIOA’s six core programs; 2) the Local Area Performance Report for the three Title I programs; and 3) the Eligible Training Provider Report for the Title I Adult and Dislocated Worker programs.

A copy of the proposed Information Collection Request with applicable supporting documentation may be accessed at http://www.regulations.gov by selecting Docket ID number ETA-2015-0007. The comment period is open for 60 days and closes on September 21, 2015. Any comments not received through the processes outlined in the Federal Register will not be considered by the departments.

Photo of Johan Uvin
Posted by
Acting Assistant Secretary, OCTAE

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.

Making a Shift in the Public Workforce System

This article is cross-posted on the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services website, the Department of Labor’s WIOA website, and the Department of Health and Human Services’ website.

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.

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Photo of Johan Uvin
Posted by
Acting Assistant Secretary, OCTAE

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.

OCTAE Acting Assistant Secretary Uvin’s Keynote Address to COABE 2015

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.
  • Employment and 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.

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