Making a Shift in the Public Workforce System

This article is cross-posted on the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services website, the Department of Labor’s WIOA website, and the Department of Health and Human Services’ website.

Today, July 1, 2015, marks the day that many of the provisions of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) take effect. This new law has the potential to make a tremendous difference for tens of millions of workers, jobseekers and students across this country. WIOA’s transformation of our publicly-funded workforce system means that all of us—federal and state partners, governments, non-profits and educational and training institutions, must be pressing for innovations to ensure:

  • the needs of business and workers drive our workforce solutions
  • one-stop centers, also known as American Job Centers (AJCs) provide excellent customer service to both jobseekers and employers and focus on continuous improvement; and
  • the workforce system supports strong regional economies and plays an active role in community and economic development.

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Photo of Johan Uvin
Posted by
Acting Assistant Secretary, OCTAE

Workforce Innovation Fund Grants Now Available Through the Department of Labor

The Workforce Innovation Fund (WIF), launched in 2011, supports service delivery innovation at the systems level and promotes long-term improvements in the performance of the public workforce system, including strengthening evidence based program strategies through evaluation and the scaling of best practices. The 2015 WIF application heavily encourages workforce agencies to team up with at least two of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) core program partners from among Wagner-Peyser Employment Service; the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act Program; and the Vocational Rehabilitation Program authorized under Title I of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Colleagues in the federally funded adult education community should consider leveraging this application to their benefit, including developing stronger and lasting partnerships with workforce investment boards (WIBs).

Earlier this month, the Department of Labor announced the availability of $34 million for the third round of grants that will support 6-8 grantees in the amounts of $3 to $6 million with the goal of coordinating and aligning resources across the federal government and with state and local partners. Interested parties should pursue one of the following strategies:

  • Enhance strategic collaboration and coordination of workforce development programs to align services with employer needs and local economic development activities and be more effective;
  • Strengthen the quality of services to individuals and employers at American Job Centers; and
  • Promote accountability, data-driven decision-making and customer choice.

Innovation like this already exists among our stakeholders. One such example, Silicon Valley’s Alliance for Language Learners’ Integration, Education, and Success (ALLIES), was highlighted by the Department in the February 2015 report, Making Skills Everyone’s Business. ALLIES boasts three workforce boards, 10 community colleges, three adult education schools, human services agencies, employers, community-based organizations, unions, and the San Mateo Hispanic Chamber of Commerce as members of a network that uses a collective impact approach to empower immigrants in the region by helping them access the appropriate services that will connect them to and help them advance in family-sustaining careers. The current WIF application will encourage more opportunities for cross-core program partnerships such as ALLIES.

Grant applications are due by July 23, 2015. Information on applying for this grant is now available.

Interested applicants are encouraged to visit www.doleta.gov/workforce_innovation to learn more about the Workforce Innovation Fund, and to find tools and resources to support application development. A tutorial for on applying for grants is also available online.

New Guidance on ‘Ability to Benefit’

The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 helped reopen the door to opportunity in postsecondary education by changing the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA), to partially restore what is known as the “ability to benefit (ATB) alternatives”. The new law went into effect on Dec. 16, 2014, and changed the HEA to allow a student who did not receive a high school diploma (or its recognized equivalent), or who did not complete a secondary school education in a home-school setting, to be eligible for Title IV financial aid. This can now be done through a combination of ATB alternatives and enrollment in an eligible career pathway program (as determined by the Title IV eligible institutions’ staff).

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Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education

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.

 

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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Photo of Johan Uvin
Posted by
Acting Assistant Secretary, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education
abolton_150
Posted by
Policy Analyst, OCTAE
Posted by
Director, Policy, Research, and Evaluation Services Division, OCTAE

Age 50: The Great Society and Adult Education

On August 20, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed Public Law 88-452. The omnibus act is cited as the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. The law created the Office of Economic Opportunity aimed at attacking the roots of American poverty by providing job training, small business loans, Head Start, Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) and an Adult Basic Education Program.

The section, in the law, established the program sought to remedy inequities of educational disadvantage by offering persons 18 years of age and older (revised to 16 years of age and older in 1970) the opportunity to develop reading, writing, language, and arithmetic skills to enable them to obtain or retain employment and otherwise participate more fully as productive and responsible citizens. The Office of Economic Opportunity provided funds to the U.S. Office of Education to administer the Program until the Adult Education Act of 1966 placed the Program entirely in the U.S. Office of Education (U.S. Department of Education in 1979).

During these 50 years the nature and extent of Federal attention to the needs of adult learners have varied, the Government, from its earliest days, has provided funds to establish, encourage, and expand programs to assist adults in overcoming those educational deficiencies that would hinder their productivity and responsible participation in the life and growth of the nation.

Happy 50th Birthday Adult Education….those 50 years have been a time when people conducted impactful work. From the White House to Congress to Federal officials, to adult educators, to the state and local learning environments, lives have been changed through a common passion for adult education and the adult learner.

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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Invitation to Comment on Implementation of Title II and Title IV of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

This is a joint blog post from OCTAE and OSERS.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) and Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) invite you to submit comments and recommendations to help us implement the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), signed by President Obama on July 22. This new law seeks to maximize opportunities for youth and adults, with and without disabilities, to succeed in postsecondary education and in high-skill, high-wage, high-demand jobs in the 21st century economy. Specifically, we seek your comments to assist us as we begin the process of implementing the amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that were made by Title IV of WIOA and of the new version of the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA), in Title II of WIOA.

Your input can help us identify issues and concerns that we need to address in order to fulfill the expectations of WIOA, particularly as we develop draft regulations for public comment. While OSERS and OCTAE encourage you to respond to the specific questions that are set out below, we also encourage you to identify other issues that you believe are significant, and to provide your recommendations on how we should address them.

Please submit comments below by Friday, August 29, 2014. Submitting comments is voluntary and subject to ED blog comment policies.

OSERS is particularly interested in comments on any or all of the following questions:

  1. What should OSERS consider in developing regulation or guidance for implementing performance measures in section 116 of WIOA with regard to the Vocational Rehabilitation Services program?
     
  2. In light of the new provisions in the Rehabilitation Act regarding competitive integrated employment in high-demand fields, what revisions should be made, if any, to the regulations related to the definition of employment outcome?
     
  3. What should OSERS consider in developing regulation or guidance related to transition services for students with disabilities, particularly the new provisions in section 113 of the Rehabilitation Act related to pre-employment transition services and transition services to groups in section 103(b) of the Rehabilitation Act?
     
  4. Section 109 of the Rehabilitation Act made significant changes regarding the provision of services to employers, including the requirement for performance measures related to the effectiveness of services to employers. How can OSERS best implement these new provisions?
     
  5. Subtitle G of WIOA made significant changes to the Rehabilitation Act related to supported employment. What should be considered in regulation or guidance on the new requirements specifically related to the provision of supported employment to youth with most significant disabilities?

OCTAE is particularly interested in comments on any or all of the following questions:

  1. In issuing definitions of performance indicators under Section 116, what should be considered in regulation or guidance when applying these indicators to adult education participants? How can the use of “measurable skill gain” best support services to low-skilled and limited English proficient individuals?

  2. WIOA emphasizes the importance of connecting job seekers and workers with the needs of employers and the regional economy. States will be required to report on their effectiveness in serving employers. What factors should OCTAE consider when defining how adult education and literacy programs may effectively serve employers?
     
  3. WIOA requires states to implement adult education content standards that are aligned to their standards under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. What are the timeline and implementation issues that should be considered in supporting this requirement?

  4. AEFLA adds new activities to adult education and literacy services, including integrated education and training and workforce preparation. What should be considered in regulation or guidance on these new activities?

The comment period has ended.

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.

Office of Vocational and Adult Education Becomes Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education

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

Students in a studio

Technology is a critical tool for career readiness at the Duke Ellington School for the Arts in Washington, DC.

February is Career and Technical Education (CTE) month, and what could be more fitting than to announce that the name of the Office of Vocational and Adult Education has been changed to the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE). Vocational education was recognized as a national priority with the Smith-Hughes Act of 1917. “Career and Technical Education” has now replaced “vocational education” as a more accurate term to describe what and how students are studying to be career ready.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said, “The president and I believe that high-quality CTE programs are a vital strategy for helping our diverse students complete their secondary and postsecondary studies.” He acknowledged that those on a CTE track are helping our nation meet our economic and workforce challenges. “In fact, by implementing dual enrollment and early college models, a growing number of CTE pathways are helping students to fast-track their college degrees.”

Natalie Tran, a Future Business Leaders of America chapter president at River Hill High School in Clarksville, Md., told ED, “[In CTE] over time, you gain confidence—you know what you are doing, you know that you are able to go into the workforce . . . And it’s all about—knowledge is power, and that’s what CTE provides us.”

In 2012, the Obama Administration released Investing in America’s Future, A Blueprint for Transforming Career and Technical Education. The Blueprint calls for effective, high-quality CTE programs aligned with college- and career-readiness standards. These programs provide work-based learning opportunities that enable students to connect what they are learning to real-life career scenarios and choices. Students participating in effective CTE programs graduate with industry certifications or licenses and postsecondary certificates or degrees that prepare them for in-demand careers within high-growth industry sectors.

Student with headphones

A CTE student at the Veterans Tribute Career Technical Academy in Las Vegas, Nev., explains her project to OCTAE Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier

Alvon Brown, a student from The Edison Academy at Edison High School in Alexandria, Va., studied to become an HVAC technician in CTE. He told ED, “. . . instead of just staying with being an HVAC technician, I want to become an engineer and work with HVAC, because I like creating stuff, and I like working—not only do I like working with my hands, I like thinking about what I can do with my hands.”

The Office of Vocational and Adult Education has had a rich history of being in the forefront of career, technical and adult education, providing funding and technical assistance to the career pathways movement, for instance. OCTAE continues to be the office in ED responsible for administering federal CTE programs, as well as the partner adult education programs. The Congressionally-mandated change in name to OCTAE acknowledges the CTE reality and looks to the future as it advances the priorities around preparing all youth and adult students for success in college and careers.