College and Career Readiness Standards-in-Action

“It’s essential to keep rigorous content standards at the heart of instructional planning, delivery, and evaluation.” Christopher Coro, Deputy Director of the Division of Adult Education and Literacy, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE)

That is exactly what 66 adult educators from 12 states did throughout their participation in an intensive, three-day training workshop held in Washington D.C., March 17-19, 2015. The workshop was designed in response to the following question: What do adult educators need to know and be able to do to translate content standards into college and career readiness (CCR) aligned curriculum and instruction?  Participants will tell you they know now! They spent three action-packed days learning the core instructional actions to effectively implement CCR standards in adult education classrooms.

Under the guidance of StandardsWork Inc. staff and coaches/trainers, participants delved into the instructional and institutional implications of CCR standards. Half the participants worked with the CCR standards for English language arts/literacy while others immersed themselves in the math standards.  Now team members know how to:

  • Determine the alignment of an instructional resource to the standards,
  • Revise the resource to improve its alignment, and
  • Create CCR-aligned lessons.

And they know how to implement their training and the tools and lessons with instructors across their states. Participants left the workshop equipped with ready-to-use training material that will enable professional development staff to provide training activities statewide.

Between now and June 2015, the 12 teams will pilot the training in up to two local-programs in their states (AZ, CO, CT, IL, KY, ME, MA, MN, MT, PA, TN, and VA).  Simultaneously, they are engaging in longer-range planning to scale up what they learned regarding translating standards into CCR-aligned curriculum and instruction statewide. Implementation teams will continue to have access to StandardsWork staff and coaches to assist with their sustainable implementation of CCR standards. In September 2015, everyone will return to Washington D.C. for a second training workshop, Improving Student Assignments and Conducting Focused Classroom Observations.

OCTAE is proud to partner with StandardsWork, coaches, and participants in taking these next steps in improving adult education services for our adult learners. See previously released materials from this project and the College and Career Readiness in Adult Education report.

Celebrating Digital Learning Day

 

Every day is a good dayView image on Twitter for digital learning! One of OCTAE’s top-line priorities is to ensure that teachers and students have access to high-quality learning opportunities on demand. To meet this priority, we have been working on several efforts. To celebrate Digital Learning Day 2015, here is a round-up:

LINCS.ed.gov has an established Community of Practice that is home to lively peer-to-peer and expert-led discussions among nearly 10,000 adult educators. Seventeen self-access courses on topics such as establishing career pathways, accommodating learners with learning disabilities, teaching science,  serving English language learners, and integrating technology provide on-demand professional development for thousands of practitioners. All of this is available to teachers 24/7 and on the go.

Teacher User Groups in two projects have supported adult education teachers to find, evaluate, and review high-quality Open Education Resources (OER) in the areas of science, math, and English language learning for use in adult education classrooms. Their reviews are posted in OER Commons where there is a growing category of reviewed OER tagged as “adult education” and “adult ESL” so other teachers can easily find them and incorporate these resources into the classroom or assign as supplemental learning.  The Open CTE Resources: Educator’s Guide Roadmap to help teachers use, build, and share their own OER is also freely available on the site.

To facilitate more students, teachers, and programs going digital and bringing more digital resources to learning, OCTAE is an enrollment partner with EveryoneOn.org, a broker of low-cost Internet and refurbished high-end devices. Learn how to help students get connected through Everyoneon.org/adulted and learn more about this program here.

OCTAE has also teamed up with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to promote local library-adult education partnerships focused on digital learning and digital literacy. Libraries are a natural source of hands-on assistance with digital and print literacy in the community and can be a productive outreach and recruitment partner. To assist literacy tutors and library volunteers, OCTAE and IMLS co-sponsored development of the Tutor Ready Learning Plans, available online at . Read more about these resources and access an archived webinar presentation.

The Employability Skills Framework is an interactive, one-stop resource for information and tools to inform the instruction and assessment of employability skills for teachers in adult education and career and technical education. The Framework aligns resources around nine key skills, organized in three broad categories: applied knowledge, effective relationships, and workplace skills.

Keep an eye on the horizon for two challenges to be launched by OCTAE. The Reach Higher Career App Challenge seeks to spur innovation in career exploration by empowering students with individualized career and education information at their fingertips. The EdSim Challenge will encourage developers of cutting edge 3D simulations and games to develop the next generation of immersive, interoperable, open platform simulations. More details will be provided soon.

Closing the Equity Gap

“We must close the equity gap for immigrants, refugees, returning citizens, and all adults with disabilities.” – Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier

Rigoberto Alvarado left El Salvador in 1991 in search of a better life in the United States. He needed English and a job. With the help of friends and family, he found an English class at the Neighborhood Centers’ Oakland Adult and Career Education. He started learning English. He found a job he liked in the hospitality industry. But he quickly realized he needed more skills in order to advance, so he returned to Neighborhood Centers to learn about computers and computer applications. Through hard work and dedication to his education, Rigoberto advanced through the ranks to become banquet manager at the Waterfront Hotel in Jack London Square. He now hires and supervises many employees, manages costs and inventories, and strives to create a positive employee work environment. Rigoberto put himself on the path to the middle class.

As Rigoberto’s experience indicates, employment-focused literacy and numeracy, as well as job skills are critical to the prosperity and well-being of individuals. One third of the 36 million adults with low skills in our country are immigrants or refugees like Rigoberto but they have not yet had the opportunities he has had. Our current programs can only offer English language learning opportunities to about 678,000 adult English learners per year. Unless we create additional opportunities for them, these twelve million adults will have a harder time finding a well-paying job than their higher skilled peers.

Making Skills Everyone’s Business – which was released on February 24 – makes a commitment to closing the equity gap for immigrants and refugees and other adults with multiple barriers including adults with disabilities, returning citizens, homeless adults, and emancipated youth transitioning out of the foster care system. Closing the equity gap is one of the seven strategies included in this national call to transform adult learning.

Data from the Survey of Adult Skills support this strategy. For instance, adults with learning disabilities are twice as likely to have low skills but few programs are equipped to meet these adult learners’ unique needs. Twenty-six percent of adults at Level 1 and 9 percent of those below Level 1 reported a learning disability. The figure below, Figure 9 in the Making Skills Everyone’s Business report, demonstrates the challenge.

This chart shows that 8 percent of U.S. adults ages 16–65 answered yes to a question about whether they have ever been diagnosed or identified as having a learning disability; 92 percent answered no. Of those who answered yes, 35 percent had low literacy skills; that is, they scored below Level 2. Of those who answered no, 17 percent had low literacy skills.

Percentage of U.S. adults ages 16–65 at each level of proficiency on the PIAAC literacy scale, by their responses to a question about whether they have ever been diagnosed or identified as having a learning disability

One subpopulation that requires our attention and commitment are older youth and adults in our correctional facilities. Data on the skills of the incarcerated and on returning citizens are forthcoming, as the National Center for Educations Statistics is completing data collection on a representative sample of institutionalized individuals. Conclusive data are available, however, that show that career-oriented education is one of the more effective interventions that contribute to significant reductions in recidivism according to a recent meta-analysis, Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education, conducted by the Rand Corporation. OCTAE’s expanding investments in adult and youth reentry education programs and the expanded provisions for corrections education in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act are just the beginning. We need to work directly with employers to create pathways from prison to good jobs.

Partnerships with employers, employment and training agencies, agencies that can support wrap around support services, and integrated education and training programs that simultaneously provide skills remediation and postsecondary education and training are doable and can create real opportunities. But these partnerships and services demand more resources. In addition to demanding resources, we should have the political will to create more opportunities.

When I traveled all across the country gathering input for Making Skills Everyone’s Business, adult learners told me repeatedly that they are ready to take advantage of the opportunities to improve their skills. Let’s work together to make it happen.

Guest Author: Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier is the former Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education. Dann-Messier launched the national engagement process that resulted in Making Skills Everyone’s Business.

Making Skills Everyone’s Business: Report Launch

OCTAE Announces the Release of Making Skills Everyone’s Business: A Call to Transform Adult Learning in the United States

UPDATE: See an Ed.gov Homeroom blog post by Undersecretary Ted Mitchell and Acting Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin about The Importance of Transforming Adult Learning.

Data from the OECD Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies’ Survey of Adult Skills, which tested adult skills in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments, found that 36 million Americans have low literacy skills, nearly 24 million of whom are part of the workforce. In addition, nearly 46 million Americans struggle with numeracy. These skills issues have significant negative impacts on individuals, their families, and their communities. In contrast, higher skills are linked to improved economic and social outcomes, such as better employment, earnings, and health; social mobility; and greater civic engagement. To address the need to connect so many Americans with learning opportunities, OCTAE has released the report Making Skills Everyone’s Business: A Call to Transform Adult Learning in the United States.

See the recorded video announcement about the report from Acting Assistant Secretary Johan E. Uvin.

Opening image of Uvin Video Message

Recorded Video Message by Johan E. Uvin

Grounded in evidence and informed by effective and emerging practices, Making Skills Everyone’s Business offers seven strategies that hold great promise for improving the conditions that create and perpetuate poor literacy, numeracy, and problem solving. These strategies do not distinguish between public and private obligation, nor do they compartmentalize actions at the federal, state, regional, tribal, or local levels. Instead, they are based on the principle of shared responsibility and acknowledge that America’s skills challenge is too large to address by any stakeholder group independently.

Many OCTAE stakeholders contributed to the development of this report through attending engagement events or hosting roundtables on adult skills in their own communities. OCTAE greatly appreciates all of the input we received and the ongoing commitment to excellent services for youth and adult students.

Please spread the word about this new report by forwarding the link and accompanying video to your community stakeholders. Together, we can empower teachers, tutors, workforce development specialists, librarians, and other practitioners serving adult learners to develop collective strategies that provide all U.S. adults the opportunity to improve their foundation skills and access middle-class careers.

This report is just one of OCTAE’s ongoing efforts to promote adult learning. For continually updated news about our work, visit OCTAE Connection, the OCTAE blog, and the www.ed.gov/AEFLA page.

 

Job-Driven Training: Next Steps

“This [work] is really about the future of the middle class.” That is how U.S. Secretary of Labor Perez framed the work of The Skills Working Group (Work Group), earlier this week. Secretary Perez brought Cabinet members together to talk about how the Administration can make sure that everyone has the skills they need to get a job or get ahead. Members of the Work Group identified priorities and projects to focus their joint work. They discussed how best to maintain a national focus on skills and maintain interagency collaboration on skills beyond 2016.

In November 2014, Perez launched the Work Group, an effort to keep the momentum of the Job-Driven Training Initiative. This initiative is making sure that youth and adults leaving our education and training programs have the skills businesses need. Thirteen federal agencies, the White House National Economic Council, and the Office of Management and Budget make up the Work 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 Work Group coordinates activities across these various agencies.

Overview of Job-Driven Training Milestones:

Jan. 2014 State of the Union: President Obama announces Job-Driven Training initiative and asks Vice President Biden to lead a federal government wide review of job training programs.

Feb-Jun 2014 Job-Driven Training Review: White House and agencies develop job-driven checklist and review job-training programs across 13 agencies.

July 2014 Ready to Work Job Driven Training Initiative Report: White House releases job-driven training report with the results of the job-driven review and an action plan for moving forward, including:

  • Steps to make competitive and formula program more “job-driven”
  • Collaborative efforts across agencies to better align systems, braid funding, and enhance coordination
  • A call to action around long-term unemployment, upskilling, and tech hiring

Nov. 2014 Skills Working Group Launched: Launch of the interagency Skills Working Group in November 2014 to maintain focus and attention around interagency, collaborative efforts component of job-driven training initiative, as well as emerging opportunities around cross-agency skills coordination.

Dec. 2014 Sub-Committees Meet: Skills Working Group deputies establish sub-committees that met in December and over the holidays to develop initial project work plans.

Jan. 2015 State of the Union: President Obama acknowledges the success of Vice President Biden’s job-driven training initiative and highlights apprenticeship and upskilling.

Members presented the goals, objectives, activities, and expected outcomes developed by interagency work teams focused on four topics. Secretary Perez presented on apprenticeship. Secretary Moniz discussed possible pilots for better coordination around skills in targeted communities. Secretary Pritzker introduced technology innovations. And we discussed efforts to increase the skills of 24 million front-line workers so they can advance to higher-paying jobs. We also talked about ways to get more states involved in creating career pathway programs.

Following these mini-presentations, we spoke about what we are already doing and about what more we can do together.

We left the meeting with a clear sense of direction to develop and implement together a comprehensive strategy to solve America’s skills challenge.

Guest Bloggers: Johan E. Uvin is the Acting Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education. Carmen Drummond is a Special Assistant and Policy Advisor in the Office of the Assistant Secretary. Uvin and Drummond are facilitating the career pathways and upskilling work stream of The Skills Working Group.

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.

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.

Read More

Time to Reskill: A Practitioner Webinar Rescheduled

Join the U.S. Department of Education, American Institutes for Research, and adult education advocates for a webinar on Thursday, March 13, from 1:00pm-3:00pm ET. 

NOTE: new date! The original February date was postponed due to weather. Please use this link to register for the rescheduled webinar.

With the recent release of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)’s Program for International Assessment of Adult Competencies, (PIAAC) demonstrating the direct relationship between skills and economic security, health, and educational advancement, there is even more urgency to address the needs of low-skilled learners and equip the teaching workforce to help such students achieve their academic and economic goals.

The Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) launched a national engagement effort on November 20 (see archived announcement) to explore ways to increase our national capacity to improve the foundation skills of adults in the United States. OVAE is particularly interested in engaging with adult educators to solicit their input into a forthcoming national action plan.

This webinar will be an opportunity to receive a briefing on the PIAAC data, the OECD’s special report on America’s low-skilled population, Time for the U.S. to Reskill?, and engage in a focused discussion about the issues facing adult education.

To prepare for the webinar, see the Consultation Paper, which provides background on the skills issue and the framework for the national action plan. The discussion will continue online in various groups within the LINCS Community of Practice.

Register here for the webinar and help us spread the word among practitioners!

Health and Skills: Making the Connection

Adults with low literacy skills are four times more likely to report poor to fair health than adults with higher skills. This is two times the international average according to recent data from the Survey of Adult Skills (October, 2013), which is part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC).

This correlation between skills and health presents great challenges to both the individual and his or her healthcare providers to communicate and address the prevention, management, and treatment of disease and healthy behaviors. Poor literacy, numeracy, and problem solving skills adversely affect health care, health information access, health outcomes, and appear to limit engagement in positive, preventative behaviors. At a time when the U.S. is spending more than $2 trillion a year on healthcare ($2.5 trillion in 2009, according to the Surgeon General’s National Prevention Strategy), even a fraction of improved outcomes could save millions of dollars. As a reference, the U.S. federal investment in the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA), which funds adult basic education and English proficiency classes, is $563 million.

U.S. adults ages 16-65 performed poorly on all measures of the Survey of Adult Skills, with average scores below international averages in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in a technology-rich environment. While there are high performers in each domain, the U.S. population has a greater proportion of adults of working age with low skills (defined as below Level 2 on a five level scale) than the comparison countries (see more about the findings here).

The relationship between skills and health provides a strong case for investing in upskilling adults. The economic returns to skill development are clearly demonstrated in the Survey through the correlation of skills to higher wages, more permanent employment, and greater use of skills on the job.  The returns to improved health are likely to be at least as important. A healthier workforce is more productive with fewer days lost to illness. The healthcare costs of poor health literacy is demonstrated through higher costs for service, more emergency room visits, and fewer preventative services accessed.

There is a great opportunity to think about addressing skills and health simultaneously in a more holistic approach, as called for in the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy, issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2010. Embedding opportunities for skill development and practice in community health efforts is an underutilized approach. While contextualizing literacy in the context of health has been a promising practice, see resources at the LINCS Health Literacy Collection, too little has been done to use community-based health interventions as the anchor for literacy and numeracy interventions.

Community health workers – whether in hospitals, health centers, private primary care practices or as part of home health care or visiting nurse services – can help low-skilled adults apply the skills they do have to the immediate situation. Health professionals can use plain language and teach back methods of communication, and work closely with local educational service providers to make referrals more seamless and less stigmatized. Similarly, adult education workers can assist individuals with accessing health care, finding insurance, following treatment instructions, applying literacy and numeracy skills to everyday practices, and providing navigation assistance to services that can enhance healthy behavior. Services could be co-located for greater coordination and impact. Cross-training or shared training and professional development within a community could strengthen relationships and referral networks.

The Survey of Adult Skills (OECD, 2013) is clear that skills and quality of life issues are deeply interrelated, especially in the United States. The findings echo a recent report from the Institute of Medicine, U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health. Communities need to address these challenges as related, not separate issues, and find the means to take a holistic view of the quality of life issues faced by low-skilled, low-income, and low-English proficient populations when proposing solutions. Conducting a local health needs assessment and asset map of existing challenges, resources, and future growth projections can be a way to engage the community. Prevention and health safety campaigns are ideal opportunities to involve the full range of family-serving organizations in a community.

In November 2013, the U.S. Department of Education launched a national engagement effort to explore ways to increase our national capacity to improve the foundation skills of adults in the United States. Regional events have been held through the winter and communities are being asked to provide input and feedback from their own locally-hosted roundtable discussions to inform a national action plan.

In order to assist communities in hosting roundtable discussions, the Department created a set of resources and an online submission form. See www.TimetoReskill.org for the following tools:

  • Consultation Paper, a 10-page paper that can be shared in advance of an event to provide background on the skills issue and the framework for the national action plan.
  • Toolkit, a step-by-step guide to running a local roundtable from types of people to invite to the questions to pose.
  • Online feedback form for submitting feedback. (Please submit comments by March 14 to be considered in the Plan.)

We hope community health partners will be part of the solution! Consider hosting a roundtable discussion in your area and contributing to the national action plan.

Johan Uvin is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Strategic Initiatives at the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education 

Silicon Valley Weighs in on Adult Education Challenges

Cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Education blog.

If you want to engage the high-tech industry to help improve job readiness for the nation’s 36 million low-skilled adults, a good place to start is Silicon Valley.

That is just what the Wadhwani Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education did. In January, Wadhwani staff, led by Chief Executive Officer Ajay Kela, were joined by ED’s Brenda Dann-Messier, assistant secretary for career, technical, and adult education; Johan Uvin, deputy assistant secretary for policy and strategic initiatives; and Cheryl Keenan, director of the Adult Education and Literacy Division, for a listening-and-working session at Cañada College, in Redwood City, Calif.

Dann-Messier

Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier (seated, second from left) and Wadhwani Foundation’s Gayatri Agnew (standing, left) are joined by colleagues at the adult reskilling session in Redwood City, Calif. (ED photo credit: Joe Barison)

This engagement event, “Time for the U.S. to Reskill,” brought more than 50 San Francisco Bay Area adult-education stakeholders together, with representation from local workforce, community, and advocacy organizations. The welcome by Wadhwani’s Kela, ED’s Dann-Messier, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Regional Administrator Robert Garcia described the magnitude of the low-skilled-adults challenge. The speakers emphasized how a worker’s low skill level directly affects life beyond employment, starting with a person’s health.

The format was “to put people in a room who may not typically come into a room together and convene unlikely stakeholders,” said Gayatri Agnew, Wadhwani’s program director for Race to a Job – USA.

The immediate goal, Dann-Messier said, “is a national plan to improve the foundation skills of the 36 million low-skilled adults in this country.” She explained her imperative to travel to California and to be in the room. “I need to hear what the folks are saying regionally, what the challenges are, what the solutions are, and it’s very important for me to hear all of that first-hand, and not have it filtered.”

Agnew moderated a panel comprised of adult-education stakeholders, followed by general discussion. The participants then dispersed to a half-dozen small rooms for a working lunch and creating the start of solutions. Later, during a break, participants talked about their reasons for attending the session and assessed how things were going.

“We’re trying to serve an issue here of equality, access issues, in both the field of Latinos moving up in the corporate world and in social equity,” said Luis Chavez, chairman of the board, Latino Institute on Corporate Inclusion, and a senior director for the Career Ladders Project.

Silicon Valley employers gave their perspectives as well. Kris Stadelman, director of the Nova Workforce Investment Board, said, “In education – I hear this from employers – your product is supposed to be a trained, ready, educated, prepared workforce.” In this light, she said, the day’s program was on the right track. “It was really good to start out with evidence, with the data, to really quantify what it is we’re talking about. I think the questions were all the right ones.”

This engagement session was one of five ED nationwide sessions, with others held in Philadelphia, Chicago, rural Cleveland, Miss., and the greater Boston, Mass. area. While each session is unique, Dann-Messier sees the Silicon Valley session as different from the rest. “If you’ve got 36 million folks – and federally we’re only serving two million – traditional means aren’t going to work,” she said. “We have to really make sure that we utilize technology-enabled solutions.”

Joe Barison is the director of communications and outreach for ED’s San Francisco Regional Office.