For Immediate Release: July 16, 2009

American Graduation Initiative Bold Step Toward Transforming Workforce

(Washington, D.C.) Following is a statement from Evelyn Ganzglass, director of workforce development at CLASP, regarding the Obama Administration's proposed American Graduation Initiative. President Obama announced the initiative, including the Community College Challenge Fund, the College Access and Completion Fund, and the Online Skills Laboratory, Tuesday during a speech in Michigan.

"The Obama Administration's proposed American Graduation Initiative represents a bold federal effort to help more Americans gain the knowledge and skills they need to get ahead and that our country needs to compete globally.  The initiative will support state and local innovation to transform workforce education services to ensure that America can regain its position of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

"We applaud the Administration's commitment to increasing the educational attainment of America's workforce.  The administration has rightly focused its community college reform efforts on encouraging much needed change in policy and practice. Change is essential not only to increase college graduation rates, but also to ensure that education is a pipeline to employment.

 "The president's initiative is exactly what's needed to help more states and communities achieve the kinds of fundamental reforms in workforce education that Shifting Gears, a Joyce Foundation-funded initiative,  five Midwest states are engaged in. Through this initiative, we've learned that systemic change is neither quick nor easy, but state leadership and local innovation together can achieve significant results. For example, Illinois and Wisconsin are taking steps to create career pathway and basic skills "bridge" programs statewide that help students improve their academic and English language skills more quickly while earning marketable postsecondary credentials."

More About Shifting Gears

Shifting Gears offers lessons on how to achieve workforce education reforms. Through the initiative, state interagency teams in five Midwest states (Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin), in partnership with employers and policy advocates, are working to create pathways to college and career success for low-income working adults. Shifting Gears teams have supported local innovation through grants to test promising education and workforce strategies. This parallels what the federal initiative plans to achieve with the Challenge Fund at the national level.  At the same time, states are re-engineering adult education, job training and community college policies to sustain and scale up local innovation to increase attainment of postsecondary credentials that pay off in the labor market.

For more information on state developments and effective policies and practices in helping low-income working adults achieve college and career success, visit


CLASP develops and advocates for policies at the federal, state and local levels that improve the lives of low-income people. We focus on policies that strengthen families and create pathways to education and work. Through careful research and analysis and effective advocacy, we develop and promote new ideas, mobilize others, and directly assist governments and advocates to put in place successful strategies that deliver results that matter to people across America.


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