President Obama Signs Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Into Law

On July 22, President Barack Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) into law. The signing ceremony was a showcase for the importance of national workforce education and development to economic recovery. It included the release of Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity, a federal-wide effort to ensure “that federally funded training programs are singularly focused on getting more Americans ready to work with marketable skills.”

WIOA will become effective on July 1, 2015, the first full program year (PY) after its enactment.  However, the act includes several provisions that become effective on other dates.  For example, Governors must submit Unified State Plans pertaining to workforce investment programs, adult education and vocational rehabilitation to the Secretary of Labor on March 1, 2016. In addition, the WIA performance accountability section remains in effect for PY 2015, with the new WIOA performance accountability provisions taking effect at the start of PY 2016 on July 1, 2016.

Following the signing, both the departments of Labor and Education announced WIOA implementation resources and outreach efforts to their stakeholders. Bookmark the OCTAE WIOA Reauthorization website of resources for information on the act and links to the resource websites of the department of Labor and vocational rehabilitation.

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Goes to President for Signature

An historic bipartisan, bicameral bill that amends and reauthorizes the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) through fiscal year 2020, has been passed by both the Senate and House and is headed to President Obama for signature.  H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) which first passed in the Senate on June 25, cleared the House on July 9.  The bill makes key improvements to the nation’s workforce development system, helps workers attain the foundation skills necessary for 21st century jobs, and fosters a modern workforce to help make American companies be competitive. The bill emphasizes the creation of career pathway programs, improved integration and coordination of education and training services, development of sector based strategies, and streamlined service delivery to individuals, especially for underprepared youth and adults.

Key provisions include:

  • requiring states to develop unified plans and to use common accountability measures
  • eliminating the “sequence of services” provisions of WIA
  • providing the ability to fund training services through contractual arrangements, opening expanded opportunities for community colleges to participate in the federal workforce program
  • emphasizing regional planning and service delivery and sector based strategies

Stay tuned to the OCTAE Connection newsletter and the OCTAE blog for more information on how this new legislation will impact adult education, community colleges, and career and technical education programs.

New IES Partnership Research Grants Announced

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and the National Center for Education Research (NCES) awarded eighteen new research grants under the Partnerships and Collaborations Focused on Problems of Practice or Policy program (CFDA 84.305h).  In FY 2014, the Institute competed three topics under this program: Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships in Education Research, Continuous Improvement Research in Education, and Evaluation of State and Local Education Programs and Policies. The topics support collaborations between research institutions and state or local education agencies on education issues of high priority for the education agency.  Total spending for these awards is approximately $18.6 million. Click on the grant titles below to learn more:

Awarded in the Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships in Education Research Topic

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Dear Colleague Letter Promotes Library-Adult Education Partnerships

This post is cross-posted from the Institute for Museum and Library ServicesUp Next Blog.

The recent results of the international “Survey of Adult Skills” estimated that 36 million Americans are low-skilled in literacy, and 3 million are eager to gain additional education and training but are hampered by barriers such as transportation, child care, and work schedules. The Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) are working together to encourage effective collaborations between libraries and federally funded adult education programs to help more Americans take advantage of the educational, employment, financial, health, social and civic resources that are available online.

IMLS Director Susan Hildreth and OCTAE Acting Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin while attending the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI).

IMLS Director Susan Hildreth and OCTAE Acting Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin while attending the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI).

According to Pew Research Internet Project data, over 15 percent of Americans, including senior citizens, adults with less than a high school education, and people living in households earning less than $30,000 per year, are not using the Internet at all. And, while 74 percent of whites and 62 percent of African Americans have high-speed Internet access at home, only about half of Hispanics (56 percent) do.

Already, the nation’s more than 17,000 public libraries are providing computer access or free wireless Internet to America’s families. According to the report, “Opportunity for All,” over 77 million people, or nearly one-third of the U.S. population ages 14 and older, used a public library computer or wireless Internet in 2009. Of the library users in households living below the poverty line of $22,000 per year for a family of four, 44 percent visit a public library in order to get online. In fact, education was cited by 42 percent of responders as the main reason patrons used library computers and 24 percent of those users reported taking online courses or working on online assignments. In addition, employment and career –related activities were cited by 40 percent of responders as the reason they went to the library, 76 percent of whom were looking for jobs.

In light of this situation, IMLS and OCTAE recently announced a joint Dear colleague letter released on June 24, 2014 by IMLS Director Susan Hildreth and OCTAE Acting Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin. Susan and Johan recognize the important role libraries and adult education programs play in helping build digital literacy among adults. Joint activities include: increasing awareness about resources and training (see http://LINCS.ed.gov); developing literacy tutorials and guides; and collaborating with various associations and nonprofits to identify and disseminate examples of partnership activities the public adult education system and libraries are taking at the state and local levels.

According to Director Susan Hildreth, “Libraries have a long history with literacy programs and reaching residents. We hope this program will help connect youth and adults more seamlessly to learning opportunities online and at their local adult education and community college programs.” Acting Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin said, “Libraries and adult education programs are natural partners; together we can strengthen the on-ramps to digital literacy and learning. Their joint goal is to enhance skills, employability, and quality of life for all American, and especially for those youth and adults with low skills.”

For more information see OECD (2013). Time for the U.S. to Reskill?: What the Survey of Adult Skills Says, OECD Skills Studies, OECD Publishing

- See more at: http://blog.imls.gov

Online PIAAC Data Explorer Launched

Cross-posted from the PIAAC Buzz newsletter; sign up to receive the Buzz directly. 

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) recently launched a new interactive online web portal that will make it easy for researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to build customizable data tables using the PIAAC data. This new tool supplements the information available in NCES’s First Look report—Literacy, Numeracy, and Problem Solving in Technology-Rich Environments Among U.S. Adults: Results From the Program for the Assessment of Adult Competencies 2012—and is designed to enable users to create their own data tables.

Like NCES’s First Look report, the PIAAC Results Portal reports average scores and proficiency levels in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments. It can be used to compare U.S. performance to the international average and to the average in any or all participating countries.

You can also dig a little deeper by examining the data by a variety of characteristics. For example, if you are interested in how U.S. adults with different levels of educational attainment performed in literacy, you can create a table based on educational attainment variables. Likewise, if you are interested in what skills adults use at home and at work and how the use of these skills relates to performance in numeracy, you can look at that as well. There are many other variables to explore.

To make your searches easier, NCES has created profiles for two key subgroups, found under “Employment Status.” For example, the characteristics included in the “unemployed” subgroup profile include age, gender, race/ethnicity, U.S. born, and educational attainment. In addition to these characteristics, the “employed” subgroup profile includes occupation, industry of employment, and level of gross pay. After you have created your customized table, you have the option to export your data table to Excel.

You can access the PIAAC Results Portal directly from the PIAAC Gateway homepage.

Department of Labor Career Pathways Webinar

On Wednesday, June, 4, 2:00-3:00 pm ET, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) will host the latest event in its Eye on the Workforce Engagement Fund Stakeholder Engagement Series. Hosted by ETA Deputy Assistant Secretary Eric Seleznow, the webinar, Advancing System Alignment and Career Pathways Innovations, will feature Workforce Innovation Fund grantees from California, Rhode Island, and Washington State. Mr. Seleznow will lead the panel in a discussion of emerging innovations in creating effective, integrated, and sustainable career pathways systems.

Registration is open and free.

Get engaged! Tweet questions for the panelists during the June 4 webinar to @USDOL using #workforceinnovation and post comments and questions about engaging business/industry and advancing career pathways on the bottom of the project web page.

If you missed the Department’s Innovating @ the Speed of Business live panel discussion in March, you can view it now.

Five Sites Selected for OCTAE’s Immigrant Integration Initiative

OCTAE, in partnership with World Education, Inc., was pleased to welcome the leadership teams from the five selected networks in the national initiative, “Networks for Integrating New Americans.”  Network leaders convened in Washington, DC on April 10th and 11th for the coordination of the project’s technical assistance.

Photo of leaders from five immigrant integration sites at initial convening

Leaders from five immigrant integration sites at initial convening

A highlight of their visit was a meeting with members of the White House Domestic Policy Council and other federal partners to discuss relevant federal programs and challenges the community sites face.

See the White House blog post for more information about the networks and the convening.

The five sites include:

  1. White Center Promise in King County, WA
  2. We Rhode Island Network in Metropolitan Providence, RI
  3. Lancaster Refugee Coalition in Lancaster City and County, PA
  4. Idaho Refugee Community Plan in Boise, ID
  5. Networks for Integrating New Americans of the Central Valley in Fresno, CA

(Front row from left to right) Cheryl Hiester, Karisa Tashjian, Susan Finn Miller, Sophie Tan, Jesus Martinez, Liset Caudillo, Susan Mann, Silja Kallenbach, Tara Wolfson, Lisa Cooper, Mina Amin, Laurie Bohm-Gibson, Andy Nash, Araceli Méndez.  (Back row from left to right) Tim Shenk, Gary Hobday, Kimberly Kohler, Brady Dunklee, Jennifer Brennan, Lisa Agao, Fern VanMaren, Steve Daschel, Madeleine Beaubien Taylor, Susan Downs-Karkos, Linda Faaren, Kien Lee, Kara Fink. (Not pictured: Eva Millona)

Comment Period Opens on Career Pathways Systems

Add your voice! Tell us what works and where states need help to develop career pathways systems. The response period begins April 23 and will be open for 45 days. Save the date May 1 from 2 to 3:15 p.m. EDT for a webinar for Q & A on this topic.

The departments of Education (ED), Labor (DOL), and Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced the release of a Request for Information (RFI) to support the development of high-quality career pathways systems. The RFI solicits information and recommendations from a broad array of stakeholders—those in the public and private sectors, as well as in state, regional, tribal, and local areas.

The RFI is for information and planning purposes only and should not be construed as a solicitation or as an obligation on the part of the participating federal agencies.

As detailed in the RFI, “… ensuring robust economic growth, a thriving middle class, and broadly shared prosperity will require a significant expansion of the skills and knowledge of American workers over the next few decades.” To that end, ED, HHS, and DOL are exploring opportunities to improve the alignment of their programs at the state, tribal, and local levels so as to support robust career pathways systems. The three agencies will analyze the information collected through the RFI to inform and coordinate their policy development, strategic investments, and technical assistance activities and to improve the coordination of federal policy development with investments at the state, tribal, and local levels.

This RFI marks the first time that the three departments are jointly collecting and analyzing information on “…the benefits of and challenges to aligning diverse funding streams, programs, and stakeholders around career pathway systems; and the current and potential future use of career pathways systems to help at-risk populations gain skills and access the middle class.” At-risk populations identified in the RFI include low-income youths and adults, out-of-school youths, individuals with disabilities, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) recipients, tribal communities, English learners, immigrants, rural populations, veterans, currently and formerly incarcerated individuals, dislocated workers, and trade-affected workers.

Career pathways systems are seen as a promising strategy for meeting the skills challenge by offering distinct but complementary workforce, education, and support services that are aligned with the needs of business and industry. These systems have also demonstrated promise for meeting the individual—and complementary—goals of the three federal agencies. This RFI builds on the 2012 joint letter to promote interdepartmental career pathways approaches and on related efforts across the federal government to improve the coordination and cost effectiveness of workforce investments and economic development.

As stated in the RFI, it is expected that the analysis period will not only deepen the departments’ shared vision and understanding of career pathways systems, but will also generate essential information that can “inform policy development and the next generation of investments and technical assistance by providing us with greater clarity on the facilitators and obstacles to career pathways systems development.”

RSVP for a webinar about the RFI will be held May 1 from 2 to 3:15 p.m. EDT. (Must be logged into Workforce3One to register.)

OCTAE is Working to Get Everyone On!

62 million Americans are not online. Millions of families do not have home Internet access for learning, civic engagement, connecting with family, or employment searches. Read on to learn how OCTAE’s coordination with national partners is creating solutions.

Everyone On (www.everyoneon.org) is a national non-profit that aims to eliminate the digital divide. Through Everyone On, individuals are able to find Internet service as low as $10 a month, low-cost computers, and free digital literacy courses.  In 2013, Everyone On launched a three-year, multimedia, bilingual Ad Council campaign to “help motivate the millions of Americans who do not have the digital literacy skills they need to succeed become connected and take advantage of free digital literacy training in their communities.”

The Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) has entered an agreement with Everyone On to pre-qualify enrolled students, teachers, and programs for its computer and Internet offers through a unique hub located at EveryoneOn.org/adulted. This allows students to take full advantage of the opportunity to get Internet access in their homes, while assisting programs to create hot spots of wireless connectivity in classrooms on a flexible and portable basis.

How can you get involved?

See what offers are in your area! At EveryoneOn.org/adulted, enter local zip codes in the search box and answer the question that pops up. This information about whether there are children in the household on National School Lunch Program determines whether you will be eligible for cable Internet deals from companies like Comcast and Cox.

Adult education students, teachers, and programs are pre-qualified for wireless deals from Mobile Beacon, Mobile Citizen, and FreedomPop, regardless of family status. To see only the wireless deals, reply No to the question.

In addition to viewing the Internet service offers, EveryoneOn.org will present offers for affordable, refurbished devices and information about digital literacy training sites – including adult education sites, American Job Centers, and local libraries.

Help is also available at a call center, 1-855-EVRY1ON.

Note: Due to the regional nature of cellular and cable service markets, there is not full-country coverage of these offers. Rural areas in particularly have sparse coverage. Everyone On continues to expand the offers to new areas and new providers. To view all of the Internet service offers, search the eligibility page at http://www.everyoneon.org/offer-and-eligibility-overview/.

Who is eligible?

  • Students: Adult education students and their families can purchase a router for home use (either one that connects a single device or one that connects up to 8 devices), sign up for unlimited Internet service for $10 a month with no long-term obligation, and purchase devices such as high-end Android tablets for as little as $150.
  • Teachers: Adult education teachers and their families can also take advantage of this offer, so that more teachers can integrate technology into their teaching.
  • Programs:The purchase routers, service, and devices through this offer, so that more classrooms and learning spaces can become “hot spots” to support the integration of technology into  adult education programming, is an allowable use of AEFLA funds. Programs are also strongly encouraged to update their contact information in America’s Literacy Directory (https://www.literacydirectory.org/), which coordinates with the Everyone On Locator Tool.

While this offer is unique to adult education students, teachers, and programs, Everyone On serves all low-income families and adults. Residents of local housing authorities have a similar arrangement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

For blog readers who are not attached to adult education or housing programs, you can learn more about Everyone On and how to partner with them by visiting EveryoneOn.org/partner.

DOL Web Event: Innovating @ the Speed of Business

Department of Labor to Host Live Stream Talk on Workforce System Innovations

Department of Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez invites education stakeholders to a live stream talk on exciting and impactful workforce system innovations being implemented by DOL’s Workforce Innovation Fund grantees. Secretary Perez will kick off this first event in the Eye on the Workforce Innovation Fund Stakeholder Engagement Series, providing opening remarks on the impacts that these innovations will have on our nation’s workforce system. He will be joined by Kate McAdams, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and Employment and Training Administration (ETA) Acting Assistant Secretary Eric Seleznow.

Register now to participate in Innovating @ the Speed of Business on March 27, 2014 at 2:15 PM ET. Workforce Innovation Fund grantees in Ohio and Pennsylvania  will share their strategies for engaging businesses and creating viable pathways.

During the event, everyone is welcome to post questions on Twitter using the hash tag #workforceinnovation. The project team will monitor questions on Twitter and answer them from the Labor Department Twitter account (@USDOL) during and after the event.

This stakeholder engagement series is designed to provide a national forum for the public workforce system to discuss the power and promise of innovation. It will afford ETA the opportunity to engage with its valued stakeholders and to learn about promising practices that can successfully help businesses thrive and Americans get good jobs.