Creating a Clear Path to Better Jobs for Low-Skilled Workers Stuck in Front-line Positions

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

It’s FAFSA Time – Be Sure to Submit Yours

Don’t leave $150 billion on the table! On January 1, the 2015-16 FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) became available, and if you’re a student who will be going to college, a parent of a college-bound student, or a counselor, you should know that filling out the FAFSA is key to getting access to $150 billion in grants, loans, and work-study funds. 

See these helpful tools compiled by the Department in a series of Mythbusters about the FAFSA.

Call for Ideas to Help Shape Federal Immigrant and Refugee Integration Strategy

Contribute to this Call for Ideas from the White House Task Force on New Americans!  The goal of the Task Force is to develop a federal immigrant integration strategy that allows new Americans to contribute to society to their fullest potential and bring new Americans together with their receiving communities to strengthen communities.

OCTAE’s programs are often the first educational stop for many immigrant and refugee families. Our practitioners can inform the Task Force with real-life stories and examples of specific actions and supports that could help immigrants and refugees integrate into their communities and for their communities to welcome them. The Task Force needs to hear from you.

In a White House blog post, the Task Force posted this Call for Ideas to help shape the focus of the federal immigration and refugee integration strategy and created a specific email account, NewAmericans@who.eop.gov, for gathering stakeholder ideas.  Please send your ideas, big or small, to this email by February 9, 2015

 

Serving English Language Learners

OCTAE is proud that our CTE, adult education, and community college programs serve many English language learners and help them achieve academic, career, and community integration success. We also recognize the important role that improving English proficiency plays in immigrant and refugee families, contributing to the academic and career success of two or more generations. We encourage all of our providers to make use of these new tools and guidance.

The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice released joint guidance reminding states, school districts, and schools of their obligations under federal law to ensure that English learner students have equal access to a high-quality education and the opportunity to achieve their full academic potential.

In addition to the guidance, the Departments also released additional tools and resources to help schools in serving English learner students and parents with limited English proficiency:

*   A fact sheet in English and in other languages about schools’ obligations under federal law to ensure that English learner students can participate meaningfully and equally in school.

*   A fact sheet in English and in other languages about schools’ obligations under federal law to communicate information to limited English proficient parents in a language they can understand.

*   A toolkit to help school districts identify English learner students, prepared by the Education Department’s Office of English Language Acquisition. This is the first chapter in a series of chapters to help state education agencies and school districts meet their obligations to English learner students.

This is the first time that a single piece of guidance has addressed the array of federal laws that govern schools’ obligations to English learners. The guidance recognizes the recent milestone 40th anniversaries of Lau v. Nichols and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 (EEOA), as well as the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. The EEOA, similar to Lau, requires public schools to take appropriate action to help English learner students overcome language barriers and ensure their ability to participate equally in school.

The guidance explains schools’ obligations to:

*   identify English learner students in a timely, valid and reliable manner;

*   offer all English learner students an educationally sound language assistance program;

*   provide qualified staff and sufficient resources for instructing English learner students;

*   ensure English learner students have equitable access to school programs and activities

*   avoid unnecessary segregation of English learner students from other students;

*   monitor students’ progress in learning English and doing grade-level classwork;

*   remedy any academic deficits English learner students incurred while in a language assistance program;

*   move students out of language assistance programs when they are proficient in English and monitor those students to ensure they were not prematurely removed;

*   evaluate the effectiveness of English learner programs; and

*   provide limited English proficient parents with information about school programs, services, and activities in a language they understand.

Webinar: Performance Partnership Pilots

A second webinar will be held Wednesday, December 17, 2014 to answer questions about evaluation for the Performance Partnership Pilots (P3) for Disconnected Youth. The P3 program offers a unique opportunity to test innovative, cost-effective, and outcome-focused strategies for improving results for disconnected youth.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 provides authority to the Departments of Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services, along with the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and related agencies to enter into up to ten Performance Partnership agreements with states, regions, localities, or tribal communities that give them additional flexibility in using discretionary funds across multiple Federal programs.

This webinar will address questions such as:

  • What are the requirements for all pilots related to evaluation?
  • What evaluation activities are optional but will make my proposal more competitive?
  • How do the competitive preferences relate to evaluation work?
  • If I want to propose an evaluation, what standards should my evaluation design meet?
  • What’s the difference between the national P3 evaluation and a site-specific P3 evaluation ?
  • What issues should I consider when planning evaluation activities?
  • What resources are available to help with the evaluation components of the application?

You can find more information and register for the webinar here.

Supporting Literacy Tutors

 

UPDATE 3/24/2015  See an archived introductory webinar on this Tutor Ready resource.

 

This effort is part of the ongoing commitment to encourage collaboration between adult education and public libraries, as documented in the OCTAE-IMLS Dear Colleague Letter. 

Volunteer tutors are an important part of the adult literacy solution. Last year alone, ProLiteracy, a national member organization of volunteer literacy providers, reported 99,415 volunteer tutors serving 245,173 learners.

Volunteers work with youth and adult learners one-on-one and in small groups, providing the critical learning elements of personalization, extra practice and feedback, as well as motivational support and guidance.  From English conversation groups to algebra explanations to phonics practice, tutors fulfill a unique role in our nation’s efforts to boost adult literacy.

However, as volunteers, they may not have access to all the professional learning and support that they need or want. Additionally, when training is delivered before tutors and learners are matched, the training may not be contextualized to a learner’s particular strengths, interests, and challenges.

There is a new resource that offers online learning support for literacy tutors called Tutor Ready Learning PlansTutor Ready Four Quadrant

Tutor Ready puts tips and techniques into a just-in-time format organized around the four essential components of reading: alphabetics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Within each component, content is presented in a quick index of questions commonly asked by tutors such as, “How can I help my learner perceive the different sounds that make up a word?” Explanations and sample lessons are drawn from a robust body of research, including Teaching Adults to Read and Improving Adult Literacy Instruction. Tutors can jump to an immediately relevant question, or go through the content in a more linear and comprehensive fashion. The tips are enriched by a collection of over 60 video and audio clips of experienced tutors working with adult learners to demonstrate the techniques.

Tutor Ready is freely available and accessible so tutors can log in to their own learning plan anytime or anywhere, and the Plans can be used before, during, and after a tutoring session.

Literacy programs can use Tutor Ready in their pre- and in-service tutor training efforts and as supplemental support for their tutors to use on their own. The Tutor Ready Learning Plans complement freely available online courses that provide more in-depth coverage of the research and instructional practices and award certificates of completion.

Tutor Ready learning plans were created by LINCS’ Region 4 Professional Development Center with the support of the OCTAE, in partnership with the Literacy, Language and Technology Research group at Portland State University. Tutor Ready is built on the Learner Web platform that was created by Portland State University in part with the support of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Tutors and learners in the San Jose and Santa Clara City, CA and Boulder, CO public libraries pilot tested the materials, and the California programs provided videos of the techniques in action. Dissemination partners include the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the American Library Association Office for Literacy and Outreach Services, and ProLiteracy.

 

Libraries and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

This article is cross-posted on the UpNext! blog hosted by IMLS and the Department of Labor blog.

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 servicesOverwhelmingly 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:

 

Public Comments Received on Career Pathways

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.

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Acting Assistant Secretary, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education
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Policy Analyst, OCTAE
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Director, Policy, Research, and Evaluation Services Division, OCTAE

USDA SNAP Employment and Training Webinar

Join the upcoming webinar: SNAP Employment and Training Pilots – An Information Session on the Request for Applications.

Date & Time: Wednesday, September 24, 2014, 3:30-4:30 pm EDT

Overview: On August 25, 2014, USDA announced the availability of $200 million for up to 10 employment and training (E&T) pilot projects within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and a robust evaluation.  These pilots give USDA and State partners an opportunity to build on existing SNAP E&T programs and test new strategies to determine the most effective ways to help SNAP recipients gain and retain employment that leads to self-sufficiency.

SNAP helps eligible low-income families put food on the table and supports critical and needed employment skills and job training so that people can become self-sufficient through gainful employment.  The pilot projects offer a chance to connect even more SNAP participants with better work opportunities.

FNS invites State SNAP agencies interested in the E&T pilots to participate in a webinar on Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 3:30 pm (EDT).  The purpose of this webinar is to help unpack the priorities, requirements, and expectations outlined in the E&T Pilot Request for Applications (RFA).

To register for this webinar, please visit the following link: https://usdafnsocco.wufoo.com/forms/snap-et-rfa-webinar-registration/

More information about the E&T pilots and a link to the RFA can be found on the E&T Pilot web page: http://www.fns.usda.gov/2014-snap-e-t-pilots

 

 

Federal Collaboration to Support Educational Stability

For many children experiencing foster care, a new school year can represent a time of great uncertainty and anxiety. Research clearly shows students in foster care face enormous barriers to academic success, including frequent placement and school changes, delayed enrollment, and credits that don’t transfer from school to school. You can find more information about the collaboration between the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services and read the full article by OCTAE Acting Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin on the Children’s Bureau Express blog hosted by HHS.