The Power of Alignment: An Examination of Shifting Gears 8 Years Later

A new report from the Joyce Foundation documents the collaborative power of education and workforce development systems to produce better outcomes for low-wage, low-skilled adults. Joyce’s Shifting Gears initiative provided intensive technical assistance to select states that organized cross-agency teams around a shared policy and action agenda. From 2007-2012, CLASP served as a partner and Shifting Gears’ primary technical assistance provider.

Thousands of adults achieved education and employment outcomes in participating states’ career pathway programs. These programs spurred policy and practice innovations that strengthened state systems and informed the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). At the heart of these strategies are “bridge” programs linking adults in literacy, English language learning, and high school equivalency programs to college-level occupational programs, which provide counseling and support services and teach foundational skills as they apply to specific occupations.

The three states featured in Building Career Pathways for Adult Learners: An Evaluation of Progress in Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin After Eight Years of Shifting Gears continue to build on their Shifting Gears efforts, innovating policies and practices that enable adults with barriers to education and employment to succeed.

  • The City Colleges of Chicago reinvention initiative has doubled the number of adult basic education students transitioning to credit courses and doubled the number of degrees awarded. 
  • The Wisconsin TAACCCT Exceeding the Cap grant is helping to develop “gold standard” career pathway programs in the Wisconsin Technical College System.
  • Minnesota legislation has targeted over $10 million in state workforce development funds to a career pathway funding structure.

As Joyce Foundation President Ellen Alberding said, much remains to be done. Since 2012, with support from Joyce, CLASP has facilitated the Alliance for Quality Career Pathways, a network of practitioners leveraging WIOA opportunities to develop a scalable, sustainable career pathway system that comprehensively supports America’s working learners. For more information on the Alliance, as well as innovation opportunities in WIOA, see CLASP’s WIOA Game Plan for Low-Income People.