Shifting Gears Initiative Helps Adults Gain Skills, Access to Employment
By Anna Suhring and Marcie W.M. Foster
The labor market continues to place growing emphasis on postsecondary education and training, but many workers struggle to gain the skills valued by employers in today's economy. Even among adults who enroll in postsecondary education and training programs, many fail to complete the requirements necessary to gain needed credentials.
In a new publication, Shifting Gears: State Innovation to Advance Workers and the Economy in the Midwest, CLASP Senior Fellow Julie Strawn describes how six Midwestern states are pursuing state policies that will help more low-skilled adults achieve postsecondary access and success.
Though each state's policy agenda is tailored to its individual workforce needs, the report focuses on two innovative approaches common to many of the Shifting Gears states. One strategy involves creating new pathways to postsecondary education and credentials by breaking up longer programs into shorter-term certificates that build to a degree, prioritizing sectors that offer the best opportunities for employment, and offering classes at different times and locations. A second approach focuses on creating "bridge" models that combine basic skills instruction with occupational training focused on workforce readiness and preparation for specific sectors of the job market.
Through its focus on state policy change, Shifting Gears is helping Midwest states to serve more low-skilled adults by better developing clear pathways to marketable credentials and connecting basic skills services more closely to what adults need for college and career success. In addition, states in the initiative have connected such reforms to broader work in expanding student support services and creating partnerships with employers and economic development efforts.
About Shifting Gears: The Joyce Foundation's Shifting Gears works to strengthen state postsecondary, adult basic education, and workforce development systems so that more low-skilled workers gain the education, skills, and credentials needed to advance and succeed in our changing economy. Visit the Shifting Gears web site.