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

In Case You Missed It: CTE and STEM Conference on Marginalized Girls

Cross-posted from the White House Blog | The recorded webcast may be viewed here.

President Obama believes in the innate curiosity of every child, and our responsibility to ensure that every young woman and girl has the opportunity to achieve her dreams, regardless of what zip code she is born in.

This week, as part of the President’s commitment to equal opportunity for all students, the White House Domestic Policy Council and the Council on Women and Girls, the Department of Education, and the Georgetown University Law Center on Poverty and Inequality highlighted programs that focus on developing the talent of girls of color and low-income girls in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and career technical education (CTE) careers. We heard from the educators, innovators, researchers, scientists, and marginalized girls themselves who are dedicated to increasing the participation of low-income girls and girls of color in post-secondary education and in-demand careers within high-growth industry sectors.  

According to a recent National Science Foundation study, today, more women graduate from college and participate in graduate programs than men. As the White House Council on Women and Girls noted in our November 2014 report, Women and Girls of Color: Addressing Challenges and Expanding Opportunity, since 2009, both fourth- and eighth-grade math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the largest nationwide assessment, have improved for all girls of color, and since 2009 the high school dropout rate has fallen by 16 percent for black girls and 30 percent for Hispanic girls.

From 2009 to 2012, the graduation rate at four-year colleges and universities increased by 0.9 percentage points for black women, 3.1 percentage points for Hispanic women, 2.7 percentage points for American Indian/Alaska Native women, and 2.1 percentage points for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women. Despite this progress, barriers still exist for girls and women in STEM and CTE fields. In 2010, just 10.6 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 7.9 percent of master’s degrees, and 3.9 percent of doctorate degrees in science and engineering were awarded to women of color, and fewer than 1 in 10 employed engineers were women of color.

Many of these girls and young women continue to demonstrate an interest in STEM/CTE education, and we know that they bring new ideas, perspectives, and a passion for innovation and discovery. However, a dearth of resources effectively focused on marginalized girls, inaccurate stereotypes and implicit bias, and a lack of research informing evidence-based programs have combined to discourage many from pursuing and advancing in STEM and CTE careers. We simply cannot afford to allow these unfair and unnecessary barriers to prevent our nation from benefitting from the talents of the best and brightest Americans without regard to race, ethnicity, income, or gender.

We are proud to announce that the Administration is working with non-profit partners to expand access to STEM and CTE for marginalized girls, including low-income and girls of color:

  • Expanding Access to STEM and CTE Programs that Work: With funding support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Girls Collaborative Project, in coordination with non-profits like COMPUGIRLS and educators from around the country, will create a new STEM/CTE portal that will centralize resources on expanding marginalized girls’ access to STEM and CTE, including curriculum, research, and promising practices. The new project will also implement educator professional development at the local level.
  • Guidance to Ensure All Students Have Access to CTE and Non-Traditional Careers: The Department of Education is developing policy guidance designed to ensure that all students have equal access to CTE programs. The guidance to high schools, community colleges, and other CTE providers will underscore that gender bias has no place in American schools and that Title IX prohibits schools from relying on sex stereotypes in directing students towards certain fields. The guidance will also help state education agencies as they think about ways to improve women’s representation in non-traditional fields as part of their Perkins Act obligations.
  • Building Public-Private Partnerships and Strong Mentoring Programs: The Departments of Energy and Education will announce the expansion of a mentoring program that connects federal government employees who are STEM professionals with teachers and middle school students to share their passion, including some of the most marginalized students. This program will expand to additional cities around the country, with a focus on students living in public housing.

To learn more about what the Administration is doing now to expand opportunity for all with respect to STEM and CTE careers, please visit the Office of Science and Technology Policy and previous White House blogs on the topic.

Valerie Jarrett is Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls.

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.

Deadline Approaches to Nominate Excellent CTE Programs

If you know of a stellar Career and Technical Education Program of Study that deserves national recognition, the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) is seeking applications for its annual “Excellence in Action” award. The nomination period ends Thursday, December 18, 2014. Award winners will be honored in Washington, DC on April 8, 2015. The awards are intended to highlight high quality Career Cluster-based programs of study that have a meaningful impact on student achievement and success. Winners will receive national exposure and travel to Washington, DC to receive the award. Visit the NASDCTEc website for more information about the award program.

Posted by
Education Program Specialist, OCTAE

DECA Hosts Idea Challenge

Can you think of an innovative use for a household item? That is the objective in the DECA Idea Challenge that launches at midnight tonight, November 12. The competition challenges students from elementary school to college to submit their idea for a new use for a common household item. DECA will announce the item at midnight and competitors have eight days to submit their entry via YouTube. Students do not have to be in Career and Technical Education (CTE) or be a DECA member to participate, and you can find a challenge toolkit and contest rules on the DECA.org website.

Posted by
Education Program Specialist, OCTAE

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

CTSOs Foster Growth

My life did not begin in what most would consider ideal circumstances. At the age of two I was separated from my biological family and made a ward of the State of Texas. At the age of six, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) terminated all parental rights, assumed permanent managing guardianship of my care and well-being, and selected adoption as my permanent planning goal.

Only a small percentage of the numerous children placed in foster care are actually adopted. Tragically, few children in the foster care system emerge as a graduate from high school, let alone consider continuing into higher education. The students who do manage to graduate from high school are more likely than their peers to have only completed the minimum requirements and are at higher risk of requiring remediation in college.

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Confidential Assistant Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education U.S. Department of Education