In Focus

Mar 3, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

U.S. Department of Education Responds to OECD Survey with Strategies to Transform Adult Learning

By Lauren Walizer

Responding to our nation’s disappointing results in the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Survey of Adult Skills, the U.S. Department of Education released a report last Tuesday that details its vision for transforming adult learning in the United States. In “Making Skills Everyone’s Business: A Call to Transform Adult Learning in the United States,” the Department acts on the survey results along with other recent changes in the adult education and workforce landscape, namely the recent passage of the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA) and the White House’s Ready to Work report, to develop comprehensive strategies that will be ripe for “synergy, amplification, and investment.”

The highlight of the report is the Department’s seven strategies for improving adult learning and skill development.  We applaud both the breadth of the current adult education landscape addressed in these recommendations and the Department’s commitment to improving it. Several of the proposed strategies closely connect to our work at CLASP, including promoting expanded use of career pathways, emphasizing “no wrong door” approaches for youth and adult services, and improving opportunities and outcomes for low-income and under-served minorities. CLASP encourages the Department to consider also incentivizing workforce development partners to implement these strategies through the development of a truly shared accountability system.

In our original post about the Survey of Adult Skills’ release in 2013, CLASP called for policymakers to use the survey’s results as an impetus to redesign the nation’s inadequate skills development system. This international skills survey underscores the need for action, as adults in the United States were ranked 16th in literacy, 21st in numeracy, and 14th in problem solving using technology, out of 24 advanced countries. Improvements in this field would not only upgrade adults’ basic skills, but also promote innovation and workforce success, creating opportunities for individuals to begin or continue postsecondary training.

The Department offers a comprehensive and strategic response. Now it’s up to all of us from the worlds of government, education, policy, advocacy, business, labor, philanthropy, and nonprofits to do our part to put these strategies into action.  CLASP is committed to redoubling our efforts to improve adult learning so that poor and low-income individuals gain the basic skills they need to reach economic security.

Feb 3, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Strong Emphasis on Proven Education and Training Strategies in President Obama’s FY 2016 Budget

By Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success

Yesterday, President Obama released his Fiscal Year 2016 Budget proposal—a bold road map for crucial investments in evidence-based education, training, and support strategies that help low-income people gain skills to compete and advance in the labor market. The president’s budget proposes targeted investments that will benefit individuals with barriers to economic success.

High-Growth Sector Training and Credentialing: The budget includes a major new investment in training to help low-income people with lower skill levels earn the industry-recognized, portable, stackable credentials they need to advance economically. The proposed “High-Growth Sector Training and Credentialing” initiative would provide $16 billion over ten years to develop career pathways, provide training to an additional 200,000 people per year—doubling the current number of people trained through the workforce development system, which is funded by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)—and support regional partnerships to expand industry-validated credentials.

Workforce Opportunity and Innovation Act: To implement the updated job training policies that Congress passed on a nearly unanimous bipartisan vote last year in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the president’s FY 2016 budget proposes $3.4 billion for the WIOA Adult, Dislocated Workers, and Youth programs—a $262 million increase over last year’s enacted levels. Important new provisions in WIOA encourage states and regions to help low-income individuals with the greatest barriers to economic success by building career pathways to advancement in growing industry sectors, as well as partnering with employers for on-the-job training, transitional jobs, and other programs that enable workers to earn while they learn. The budget also proposes lifting the ban on creating a database for WIOA performance results, allowing the Departments of Labor and Education to more accurately capture outcome data; this would simplify program evaluations while reducing the burden on states.

Pell Grants: The budget would fully fund the Pell Grant program, increasing the maximum Pell Grant to $5,915 for the 2015-16 school year. It would also make permanent the index to inflation for Pell Grants that is currently due to expire in 2017.  Additionally, the president’s budget simplifies the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by eliminating more than 25 questions related to savings, investments, net worth, and additional untaxed income. However, the Administration has also proposed to increase the current academic progress requirement of a 2.0 grade point average by an unspecified amount, hoping to speed up students’ degree completion. We are concerned that this provision would significantly limit access to Pell grants among the 30 percent of students who have less than a 2.5 GPA, as there is no evidence to suggest this policy would help students complete their degrees any faster.

Ability to Benefit: The budget restores full Pell Grant funding (up to a maximum of $5,730 in 2014-15)to those students without a high school diploma who exhibit the ability-to-benefit from federal financial aid for postsecondary education programs that are connected to eligible career pathways. Previously, these students were only entitled to the discretionary portion of the Pell Grant (a maximum of $4,860).

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Jan 30, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Alliance for Quality Career Pathways Framework and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)

By Judy Mortrude

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), signed by President Obama in July 2014, defines in law the term “career pathway.” The WIOA definition articulates the interdependence of career pathway programming with industry sector strategies and identifies the specific features and functions of career pathway PROGRAMS. WIOA also supports development of career pathway SYSTEMS—the cohesive set of policies, practices, resources, and data necessary for dynamic career pathways that respond to employers’ and participants’ needs. 

Leading career pathway practitioners from around the country developed the Alliance for Quality Career Pathways Shared Vision Strong Systems framework. Check out this side-by-side analysis of WIOA’s career pathway language and the Alliance definition. Then see how WIOA performance measures stack up with the Alliance career pathway participant metrics.

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