Co-written by Tom Vander Ark and Sarah Cargill
“What’s new and different is bringing in an adult ed instructor and teaching elements within the [vocational] program,” said Dr. Jay Box, Chancellor of
Kentucky Community & Technical College System (KCTCS) where eight colleges are involved in Accelerating Opportunity. “All of the general education type
of teaching is contextualized to the technical program.”
Over 26 million adults lack a high school diploma. While just over 2.5 million of these individuals are enrolled in adult basic education programs, many of
them leave after only a semester or two, not earning any form of postsecondary credential. It’s the slog through developmental courses that causes many to
drop out before getting to the job training that they were seeking.
Jobs for the Future (JFF) announced this September
that five states -- Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana and North Carolina -- will each receive a $1.6 million grant for Accelerating Opportunity: A
Breaking Through Initiative, which will help more workers earn valuable credentials through adult education programs.
“It helps non-traditional learners gain the skills they need,” said Marlene Seltzer, president and CEO of JFF. “It’s a very ambitious pathway and we’re working
with states to ensure that the pathways are aligned with real labor market stats.”
Accelerating Opportunity will help adults earn a GED and other credentials to enter the workplace with competitive skills using evidence-based
instructional and organizational models. It is an $18.5 million collaboration effort by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, W.K.
Kellogg Foundation, Kresge Foundation, Open Society Foundations, and the University of Phoenix Foundation.
“America’s economic landscape has changed as many traditionally well-paid sectors decline and all jobs are demanding more technical skills,” said Steve
Patrick, senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “By breaking down the barriers to educational attainment, Accelerating
Opportunity is responding to the new economy by helping community and technical colleges produce more employable graduates.”
“Our hope is that they will add more credentials to their resume before they go out into the workforce,” said Dr. Box.
“Both the technical instructors and adult education instructors have been very pleased with the program and what it’s done for our students,” said Dr. Box.
“We are so sold on this style of intervention for low-skilled students that we’re looking to expand this in the future to our normal high school graduates
and students that test into needing remediation.”
“There’s huge possibilities,” said Seltzer, of JFF. “Accelerating Opportunity is expanding the professional horizons of
Americans across the country - regardless of age or background--by helping them earn credentials and learn skills that have real value to employers.” She
added, “Accelerating Opportunity meets workers where they are regardless of skill level or language proficiency, preparing them for today’s labor market by
helping to develop foundational skills that create better opportunities for employment.”
JFF is also working on a complementary effort, Dynamic Skills Audit, across 15 campuses, which leverages online learning and assessment to tie and cluster
skills associated with careers and occupations.
“We are trying to create platforms whereby all colleges have access to this kind of platform along with a companion piece that would align with the labor
market information system,” said Seltzer. John Dorrer, programs director for JFF, said, “We’re trying to build it from the grassroots level up.”
While this is an adult ed program, this pilot will further demonstrate the ability to combine skills acceleration with highly relevant vocational
training--lessons with lots of application for over-aged and under-credited secondary students.
The opinions expressed in Vander Ark on Innovation are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.