Renewing Economic Opportunity for All

UPDATE September 22, 2014: In recognition of Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, September 22-28, 2014, we revisit this blog post recognizing the role of adult education in the economic and social health of our nation. This week allows us to spotlight the many practitioners and volunteers who improve their communities through education and applaud the commitment of learners to improve themselves, their families and their communities through increased education, English proficiency, and workforce preparation.  Get involved and recognize Adult Education and Family Literacy Week in your community. Join the online celebration by including the #AEFLWeek and #AESuccess hashtags in your daily Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts.

“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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WIOA Webinar: An Overview of Adult Education and Literacy

Join a webinar, The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA): An Overview of Adult Education and Literacy, hosted by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE).  This webinar will provide a broad overview of the legislation, key dates for implementation, and useful information on resources and materials for adult education and literacy partners and stakeholders. The event will also feature a panel of representatives from the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Labor.

Date: Thursday, August 28, 2014

Time: 2:30pm – 4:00pm ET

The webinar will stream live from this link on the EdStream site and will be recorded. No registration or call-in phone number is necessary.

Please distribute this opportunity broadly with program staff, and representatives of local education agencies, researchers, business and industry, and other stakeholders.

Send questions in advance about WIOA implementation to AskAEFLA@ed.gov.

For other WIOA updates and resources, please visit OCTAE’s resource page at www.ed.gov/aefla.

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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Call for Research Papers Using PIAAC Data

OCTAE is collaborating with the U.S. National Institutes of Health, specifically the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child and Human Development (NICHD) and the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR), to sponsor a call for research papers on the relationship of education and skills to public health for adults and their families, particularly for those most at risk for poor educational, economic, and health outcomes. This collaboration reflects a shared commitment to increasing the evidence base for the work that these agencies perform and to making that evidence freely available for all.

The theme of the call is: Improving the Lives of Adults and Families: Identifying Individual and Systems-level Factors Relating Education, Health, Civic Engagement, and Economic Well-being. This effort leverages and extends the recent Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on U.S. Health in International Perspective as well as the recently released Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) cross-national, population-representative dataset, the Survey of Adult Skills, part of the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), to hone in on issues specific to the U.S. and allow for rich international comparisons.

Note that the U.S. PIAAC Background Questionnaire includes questions on health status, health insurance coverage, sources of information about health issues, and preventive health practices (based on age and gender).

OCTAE, NICHD, and OBSSR plan to cover the publication fees associated with a select number of initial publications for this Collection. Authors interested in applying for financial consideration by these groups should submit a preliminary draft paper for funding consideration by January 30, 2015 to brett.miller@nih.gov.

PLOS icon, a stylized atom as a planet

PLOS icon

See the full Call for Papers on the Public Library of Science (PLOS) blog site. PLOS is a peer-reviewed, highly competitive, open source journal that publishes online, freely-available articles related to science, medicine, and health. The Collection is essentially an open-ended special issue where related articles can be easily grouped. The Collection will stay open for additional articles past the initial deadline for consideration.

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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Upskilling in Order to be Ready to Work

Providing access to foundation skills for the 24 million working Americans who have low skills is acknowledged as a cornerstone in the Vice President’s Ready to Work report, issued on July 22, 2014. Jeffery Zients, Director of the National Economic Council, and Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, co-authored a blog highlighting the importance of on ramps, career pathways, and on the job training for this population. The article is posted on the White House site and ED’s Homeroom site.

The recent passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act along with the executive actions in the Vice President’s report include significant changes and lay the foundation for the transformation of adult learning in our country.

Please see the article and share it through your networks to raise awareness and urgency of the importance of ensuring all Americans are ready to work.

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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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.