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?

With a repertoire of evidence-based instructional methods and models, adult education is a natural provider for entry-level career pathways on-ramps, bridge courses, and English language classes, and can ensure that employers’ investments result in real skill gains for the employees. What can this look like?

  • Pine Technical and Community College (PTCC) and its Advanced Manufacturing Education Alliance (AME) project is an illustration of how technology can be used in rural areas to give aspiring and incumbent workers more opportunities to improve their skills and gain credentials. The colleges partner with manufacturing companies, MN WorkForce Centers, and Adult Basic Education (ABE) consortia to deliver a broad inventory of training opportunities directly to the plant floor. Using the latest technology-mediated instruction, PTCC and its AME partners have fostered opportunities for current or future workers from 103 companies, MN WorkForce Centers, and ABE sites, allowing them access to courses leading to credentials and opportunities for advancement and better pay. These courses prepare students to sit for the Manufacturing Skills Standard Council (MSSC) certification exam now available at each AME college location.  MSSC is a nationally recognized, portable manufacturing credential that is valued by a range of employers and serves to further improve the earning power of AME students.
  • PluggedInVA Program at Alexandria City Public Schools’ Adult Learning Center is a career pathway workforce development curriculum that combines earning a GED, professional training and multiple certificates. The Adult Learning Center works in collaboration with the Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) Workforce Development Program to help students earn certifications. Classes are held at the Adult Learning Center and taught onsite and online by NOVA professors. Career pathway programs are established for utility groundsman, pharmacy technician and medical administrative assistant. The electric/utility groundsman CAST exam training course prepares a culturally diverse workforce aged 18 years and older for entry level electrical utility career pathway jobs and includes test prep, study, and professional soft skills training. Dominion Virginia Power’s commitment to the program includes employment and career guidance, group presentations, job site tours, and a hiring event to interview potential candidates.

Below are resources with more details on the Initiative, including information on how to get involved:

If you are interested in getting involved please indicate your interest on the UpSkill America website at

Spread awareness of the Upskill Initiative to your communities, workplaces, and education and training institutions and encourage them to join the Upskill effort. Expand locally the commitments made at the Summit and use the materials to reach out to more employers in the effort.