Renewing Economic Opportunity for All

“For the one million young men and women who are out of school and who are out of work, this program will permit us to take them off the streets, put them into work training programs, to prepare them for productive lives, not wasted lives […] It will help those small businessmen who live on the borderline of poverty. It will help the unemployed heads of families maintain their skills and learn new skills. ”

Photo of President Johnson signing the EOA in a ceremony in the White House rose garden surrounded by onlookers.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964.

These words were spoken by President Lyndon B. Johnson on August 20, 1964 as he signed the Economic Opportunity Act (EOA), a keystone of the “War on Poverty.” The EOA created several programs across a number of federal agencies that aimed to “eliminate the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty in this Nation by opening to everyone the opportunity for education and training, the opportunity to work, and the opportunity to live in decency and dignity.” EOA was a legislative milestone that highlighted the need for investments in high quality education for youth as well as adults. In addition to programs like Head Start, Job Corps, and VISTA, EOA authorized federal grants for adult basic education, which marked the beginning of federal statutory involvement in adult literacy. This Law set the stage for other crucial adult education legislation to address the issue of illiteracy such as the Adult Education Act of 1966 and the National Literacy Act of 1991.

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Challenges, Simulations, and Innovation in CTE

On Friday, August 8, 2014, the U.S. Department of Education issued a solicitation for companies to provide OCTAE subject matter expertise and assistance in advancing the use and development of emerging technologies to expand the capacity of Career and Technical Education (CTE). The five-year contract will enlist a contractor to design and administer public competitions and challenges for OCTAE. Included in the solicitation are task orders to organize and manage challenges for Career Counseling Apps and Education Simulations. Proposals are due not later than August 22, 2014 at 10:30am Eastern Time. You can view the full solicitation on FedBizOpps.

Workers Need More Options to Earn and Learn at the Same Time

This is a cross-posted article from the  SEIU Healthcare NW Training Partnership /SEIU Healthcare NW Health Benefits Trust in Seattle.

by Charissa Raynor and Johan E. Uvin

The U.S. workforce is in crisis.  Today, 36 million adults in our country are considered low-skilled (OECD, 2013).  This means about 1 in 6 American adults lack the ability to spell, read, and write and about 1 in 3 lack the ability to do basic math. These are the basic skills that 21st century employers need as they look to fill millions of current job vacancies. Meanwhile, the majority of working adults with low skills earn meager wages with little to no pathways for career advancement into the middle class. The skills gap also has serious social and economic implications for an individual’s overall quality of life. Adults with low skills are also four times more likely to report poor to fair health than those with higher skills. Needless to say, the economic consequences for our country are significant.

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Smithsonian Welcomes FFA Jackets

Photo of five FFA jackets

Five FFA jackets were dedicated at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History

During a special presentation on July 25, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History welcomed the jackets of five former FFA members to its collection. The familiar blue and gold jackets will be featured at the American Enterprise exhibit, opening July 2015. The exhibit will tell the nation’s business story, centered on the themes of opportunity, innovation, competition and the search for common good in the American marketplace.

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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.

Educated and Skilled to Lead America! SkillsUSA: Champions at Work!

Two student competitors sit at a table programming computers while a third student configures a computerized milling machine.

Students test their skills in an advanced manufacturing competition at the SkillsUSA NLSC.

Thank you dedicated students, advisors, state directors, alumni, and business partners for showing the world that SkillsUSA members are true Champions at Work! SkillsUSA returned to Kansas City June 23-27, 2014, for its 50th annual National Leadership and Skills Conference (NLSC). I am honored to have witnessed the largest national conference it has ever held with the most participants in its history. It was the premiere showcase of career and technical education students. More than 15,000 students, teachers, education leaders, and representatives from more than 600 national corporations, trade associations, business and labor unions participated in the event. In addition, the 2014 NLSC marked the beginning of a year-long celebration as SkillsUSA turns 50 in May 2015! I have already marked my calendar to be in Leesburg, VA on May 8th for the birthday celebrations.

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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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TSA Rocks DC

Over 6,800 students, parents, and advisors attended the 36th Annual National Technology Student Association (TSA) Conference in Washington, DC last week. I was privileged to be one of those. TSA is committed to students studying in Technology Education and those interested in a STEM career. Middle and high school TSA students traveled to DC from across the nation to network, compete, and share new ideas and skills that could be used in the future.

Photo of Elisabeth Stansbury, Robin Utz, and Caleb Gum standing in front of a banner at the National TSA Conference in Washington, DC.

Elisabeth Stansbury, left, and Caleb Gum, right, pause for a quick photo at the 36th Annual National TSA Conference in Washington, DC.

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Dear Colleague Letter on School Counseling

Ensuring that students are college and career-ready is a top priority for the Obama Administration. President Obama has called for the United States to lead the world in college completion by 2020.

That’s why, as we prepare for the upcoming school year, the departments of Education, Health and Human Services and Labor are working together to help local school systems around the country make use of the available resources to help ensure our young people are the best prepared workers in the world. Through this cross-agency collaboration, we are sharing information about how federal resources can help provide relevant and timely information so students can plan for their future careers.

The Departments have sent a jointly signed letter to education, workforce development, social services, and private-sector leaders around the country asking them to join us in our commitment to help high schools utilize the resources available to them through their local American Job Centers. We believe this effort will not only prepare our students for future jobs, but will secure the United States’ place in the global economy.

School guidance counselors play a critical role is preparing our students for college and careers, but the growing number of students compared to counselors may mean not every student can get the attention they need to find their path to their desired career.

That’s where the federal job training services can help. By leveraging the resources available from the nearly 2,500 American Job Centers around the country, schools can ensure their students are getting the most up-to-date information about the job market and what education and training is necessary to land their dream job.

In today’s global economy, opportunity and success have never been more closely linked to the education and skills you have.  That’s why connecting workforce services to education makes common sense.  These connections – which already help job seekers and employers to connect with one another – will help students better understand the skills they need to succeed in today’s job market, while they are in a position to make the decisions at an earlier age.

The American Job Center network can supplement the activities of school counselors by providing career development services and local labor market information, offering career counseling, resume and interview help, share information about Registered Apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeship programs like Job Corps and YouthBuild, and create opportunities for summer and year-around youth employment.

Some states have already begun to integrate these services. In Wisconsin, school officials developed the Career 101 initiative that provides career information to students that promotes career awareness and supports learning about career opportunities. Or take Minneapolis Promise, a local initiative that uses private funding to locate College and Career Centers inside all seven Minneapolis public high schools and eight specialty high schools. The centers offer students career and college planning resources, trained career counselors to guide students, and an online career planning tool to help each ninth-grader develop a personalized “My Life Plan.”

These partnerships can help ensure that high school students have the information they need to be ready for college and careers, and alleviate some of the gaps in college and career counseling that is provided in high schools today.

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.