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Background and Supporting Evidence for Adult Education for Work

National Center on Education and the Economy, Workforce Development Strategies Group

This paper provides specific steps the adult education system can take to develop and implement career pathways systems of learning that move low-skilled adults through work-oriented adult education programs and onto postsecondary programs. First, it briefly reviews how the basic skills problem in this country affects our economy and explains why the present response of the adult education system is inadequate to meet that problem. Second, it presents an overall vision of how a more comprehensive career pathways learning system that meets our nation’s education and skill needs could be constructed, and the role that an Adult Education for Work system should play in that broader system. And third, it details specific measures that adult education programs can take (through the identification of quality elements) to make that vision a reality. This section is the heart of the paper.

Background and Supporting Evidence for Adult Education for Work was drafted by Forrest Chisman, vice-president of the Council for the Advancement of Adult Learning, and edited by Jackie Kraemer, Mary Clagett, and Ray Uhalde of the Workforce Development Strategies Group. It provides the background research for the two guides to Adult Education for Work. It is one of four documents produced for the One Step Forward initiative under a grant to the National Center on Education and the Economy from the Wal-Mart Foundation. The goal was to identify a set of quality indicators for Adult Education for Work programs geared toward helping low-skilled workers acquire the basic skills they need to succeed in the 21st-century workplace and to enhance the competitiveness of U.S. employers. The other three documents are:

The purpose of identifying the elements of Adult Education for Work programs is to:

  • Inform the adult education field and its practitioners about the key components of effective programs;
  • Stimulate excellence and guide quality programming in support of Adult Education for Work; and
  • Steer new public and private investments into expanded and transformed programming.

In 2009, Jobs for the Future and the Workforce Development Strategy Group of the National Center on Education and the Economy joined forces to form the Workforce and Education Policy Group within JFF.