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.
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.
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.
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.
Reminder: Public comments are being accepted on the 5 proposed notices of rulemaking until June 15, 2015. See the announcement with docket numbers, an FAQ document, a recorded statement by Acting Assistant Secretary Uvin, and a recorded webinar on entering comments.
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) aims to increase access to and opportunities for employment, education, training, and support services, particularly for individuals with the greatest barriers to employment. WIOA, which marks the most significant change to the Federal adult education, vocational rehabilitation, and workforce development systems in more than a decade, promotes stronger alignment of workforce, education, vocational rehabilitation, and other human services systems in order to improve the structure and delivery of services to individuals, including adults and youth with disabilities and others who face barriers to employment.
While the Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services have always strived to create and expand access to education, training, and employment opportunities for the millions of youth and adults who seek services through their programs, WIOA modernizes and streamlines the workforce development system to offer holistic, wrap around services to support gainful employment in the competitive integrated labor market. WIOA also supports innovative strategies to keep pace with changing economic conditions and calls for improved collaboration among agencies, not just at the State and local levels, but also at the Federal level.
The successful implementation of WIOA will require States and local areas to establish strong partnerships with core programs and other partners in the community, including local educational agencies, in order to successfully serve program participants, workers, and learners. WIOA’s unified and combined state planning provisions support this coordination by requiring a four-year strategy based on an analysis of workforce, employment and unemployment data, labor market trends, and the educational and skills level of a State’s workforce. The strategic planning process will help States align education, employers, and the public workforce system for efficient and effective use of resources. This coordinated planning will also ensure that programs and services are responsive to employer, business, and regional and community needs.
The Departments of Education (ED), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Labor (DOL) continue our exciting work together around career pathways – both systems building and programs. In April of 2014, we issued a joint Request for Information (RFI) to get information and recommendations about career pathways from stakeholders in the public and private sectors.
A diverse group of 141 respondents from across the nation commented. We received information about existing career pathways systems, roles and responsibilities of career pathways partners, connections to economic development strategies, how pathways systems are funded, how participant outcomes are measured, and how providers ensure that pathways stay current with labor market trends.
An interagency team has been reviewing and analyzing the responses and is pleased to share a summary report with overarching themes from the RFI. The report includes facilitators and barriers to career pathway(s) development and implementation. It also includes promising practices and recommendations for what federal, state, tribal, and local agencies can do to support the successful development of career pathways systems in light of recent developments such as the passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The report concludes with an overview of key opportunities, including:
- Service to Diverse Populations
- Increased Funding
- Technical Assistance
- Greater Flexibility
- Support for Research
Career pathways are a required activity for state and local workforce development boards, and WIOA encourages their implementation throughout the new law. This increased support for career pathways is guiding a comprehensive update and enhancement to the existing career pathways framework and Career Pathways Toolkit.
Yesterday, as part of the enhancement process, DOL, in partnership with the interagency team, hosted a Champions meeting, with those recognized as a champion in the implementation of a Career Pathways System in their state, locality, or tribe, to get valuable input on draft revisions to the Career Pathways Toolkit. The champions provided their feedback as well as any innovations, creative approaches, and evidence-based practices they have developed since the publication of the last version of the Toolkit in 2011.
Please know that the information shared through the RFI and yesterday’s Champions meeting will be used to inform technical assistance efforts, funding opportunities, policy discussions, and other activities to support the development of career pathways systems. So, stay tuned by staying engaged with the Moving Forward with Career Pathways project.
OCTAE Announces the Release of Making Skills Everyone’s Business: A Call to Transform Adult Learning in the United States
UPDATE: See an Ed.gov Homeroom blog post by Undersecretary Ted Mitchell and Acting Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin about The Importance of Transforming Adult Learning.
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.
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.
America is creating millions of jobs. But, too many of these jobs go unfilled – five million to be exact. At the same time, there are roughly 8.7 million Americans looking for work and 24 million front-line workers who could fill these jobs, if they had the skills or were given the opportunity.
As the economy continues to improve, more and more employers struggle to find skilled workers with the requisite skills to fill in-demand jobs. At the same time, between twenty and thirty million workers in low-wage jobs – many of whom could be trained to fill more skilled roles – lack a clear path to a better job and career. According to the OECD, these workers are about half as likely as their high-skilled colleagues to participate in any job-relevant education or training over the course of the year. These workers need expanded opportunities and lowered barriers to gain both basic and technical skills.
In his State of the Union address last Tuesday, the President called on employers across the country to adopt or expand additional measures to help front-line workers gain the training and credentials to advance into better paying jobs – including paying for college education, offering on-the-job training for career progression, and increasing access to technology-enabled learning tools. The day after, the President’s first stop and appearance was at Boise State University in Idaho where he launched an “Upskill America” initiative:
Today, we’re partnering with business across the country to “Upskill America” — to help workers of all ages earn a shot at better, higher-paying jobs, even if they don’t have a higher education. We want to recruit more companies to help provide apprenticeships and other pathways so that people can upgrade their skills. We’re all going to have to do that in this new economy. But it’s hard to do it on your own, especially if you’re already working and supporting a family.
Many employers have already developed promising approaches to training and credentialing for upskilling front-line workers as part of successful talent strategies. And, we know that many others see the opportunity to benefit their workforce and bottom lines through investments in the skills of their front-line workers. This challenge creates a great opportunity for business, industry, labor, and government to team up and find and support a solution together.
The Administration is working with employers to identify and spread best practices for education, training and credentialing of front-line workers to help with their job progression. Examples of these practices are employers paying for their front-line workers’ college education, identifying clear internal pathways, providing career counseling and coaching, offering on-the-job training that leads to career progression, and providing access to online and technology-enabled education tools so workers can develop their basic and technical skills.
In the coming months, businesses of all sizes will be convened, as well as foundations, education and training non-profits and other partners who are committing to make new investments, to collectively set new goals and change policies that will enable low-skilled front-line workers to progress into better-paying jobs and help employers meet their current and projected unmet demand for skilled labor.
This effort to improve the skills of front-line workers builds on the actions Vice President Biden presented to President Obama on July 22, 2014 as part of his report Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity. In his 2014 State of the Union address, the President had tasked Vice President Biden with leading a review of federal employment and training programs, with the aim of making them more job-driven. Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity highlights successful job-driven training strategies, details executive actions that are being taken by the federal government, and new commitments by employers, non-profits, unions and innovators to help spread what’s working. As indicated in the release of the Ready to Work report, if you’re ready to work, you should be able to find a job that fits your skills, or get trained with the skills you need for a better job.
In November 2014, U.S. Secretary of Labor Perez launched The Skills Working Group, an interagency effort to maintain focus and attention around interagency, collaborative efforts of the Job-Driven Training Initiative, as well as emerging opportunities around cross-agency skills coordination. Thirteen federal agencies, the White House National Economic Council, and the Office of Management and Budget make up The Skills Working 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 Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education has been an active contributor to this work and leads the career pathways and upskilling work streams.
I find it inspiring to see businesses and labor-management initiatives expand access to training and provide supports for Americans to access pathways into the middle class. CVS Health, for example, is expanding access to job-advancement training for their employees by launching two new regional learning centers that will serve thousands of additional employees in the next two years. This builds on the six regional learning centers CVS Health currently operates in partnership with community colleges and other community service organizations, to help support thousands of workers as they build customer service- and healthcare-related job skills for career progression. The Upstate NY 1199 SEIU Training and Upgrading Fund started C.N.A. training in the Syracuse (Central NY) area three years ago for incumbent SEIU members to allow lower level workers (dietary and housekeeping) to move up the career ladder. Since this initiative was not always able to fill this program with incumbent workers, they started drawing on people from the community. Community participants are funded through grants.
It is also exciting to see how many opportunities the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) provides for businesses – in partnership with adult education and youth and adult training providers or otherwise – to ensure that our nation’s workforce is ready to work and remains highly skilled and competitive. Whether it is through the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act – Title II of WIOA – or through any of the other core programs, WIOA can play a critical role in achieving the goals of UpSkill America. Here are just a few ways that WIOA can do this:
- Employer partnerships with education providers are eligible entities under Title II. This creates opportunities for employers and providers to team up and offer foundation skill development opportunities for low-skilled workers looking to get ahead. Learn more at a new, interactive site designed to support employer-adult education partnerships.
- Employers can take advantage of increased access to work-based training. WIOA provides the ability for local workforce investment areas to help employers train their workers.
- WIOA also increases reimbursement available for on-the-job training from 30 percent to 75 percent.
- Businesses, under WIOA, can collaborate with American Job Centers, community colleges, and adult education providers to develop integrated education and training programs—including Registered Apprenticeships—at the workplace to help employees gain basic and technical skills and advance to the next level of work. Further, this collaboration can support regional sector strategies and the development of career pathways that support job seekers and help meet the needs of employers.
- WIOA places a great emphasis on serving out-of-school youth. The new law requires local communities to spend at least 75 percent of available youth funding, or approximately $500 million, on this population. This provision goes into effect July 1, 2015. By partnering with the public sector to provide apprenticeships, internships, summer jobs, and other on-the-job training experiences, businesses can help the nation maximize opportunities for disconnected youth and young adults and build a skilled workforce.
The UpSkill America initiative, the implementation of WIOA, the modernization and expansion of apprenticeships, and the implementation of the executive actions in the Ready to Work report are all contributing to the momentum that is building in our country to make sure that all Americans have the skills that employers need and that will allow them to get ahead.
Johan E. Uvin is the Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education
Guest authors: Portia Wu, Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training, U.S. Department of Labor
Johan Uvin, Acting Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education, and
Susan Hildreth, Director of the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services
Our agencies have long recognized the role of libraries to help meet the workforce training and job search needs of the American public. At the height of the recession, more than 30 million people reported using library computers for workforce related needs and 3.7 million of them reported finding work. Today, 96 percent of libraries surveyed offer online job and employment resources and 78 percent offer programs to help people apply for jobs.
In July, the President signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA) which strengthens and aligns Federal employment, education, and training services. Overwhelmingly approved by both the House and the Senate, the legislation is the result of a bipartisan agreement that recognizes the vital role the workforce system plays in providing the services and resources job seekers need to access the kinds of skills training, career information, and education that are required for today’s job market. The Act aligns with and complements the President’s Vision for Job-Driven Workforce Development, as it prepares workers for 21st century jobs and ensures American businesses have skilled workers to be competitive in global economy.
We are pleased that WIOA includes several exciting changes that better align federal resources and call for local community-based partnerships to increase access to services. WIOA explicitly identifies public libraries as potential partners of the American Job Center network, and acknowledges libraries’ ability to provide an expansive array of job search services. It also recognizes libraries as important providers of federally supported training and employment for adult education and literacy. WIOA instructs state and local workforce development boards to boost “digital literacy skills” at American Job Centers – a task perfectly suited to public libraries!
We are delighted that the role public libraries play in workforce development is being acknowledged. Every day, people in communities across the United States use libraries to access the Web for career development—boosting their skills through online learning, improving their English literacy and digital literacy, and finding work. Public libraries can do even more with better collaboration with state and local workforce boards.
We thank American Job Centers, the nation’s employment skills training programs, and public libraries for all they do to serve our nation’s job seekers and contribute to the country’s economic vitality. Under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, we will deliver better coordinated services so that students and jobseekers acquire the skills needed in a competitive 21st century economy.
See other collaborative efforts:
- Dear Colleague Letter from IMLS and OCTAE to encourage partnerships to address digital literacy issues
- Training and Employment Notice (TEN) from Department of Labor encouraging partnerships to support workforce development
- Link to archived webinar on the role of libraries in WIOA held October 27, 2014
On April 23, 2014, the Departments of Education (ED), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Labor (DOL) issued a Request for Information on Adoption of Career Pathways Approaches for the Delivery of Education, Training, Employment, and Human Services in the Federal Register. The request asked commenters to respond to 13 different questions regarding the design and implementation of career pathways systems. The comment period closed on June 9, 2014 and generated an impressive 142 public comments.