Everyone’s Business

Everyone’s Business

For the past six months, we’ve been participating in a series of engagement sessions organized by the Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE) as it develops an action plan to transform adult education in the U.S.  As we’ve noted previously, roughly 36 million adults lack the skills to secure jobs and chase economic opportunities where they can realize a living wage.  Stakeholders from private industry, local, state, and federal agencies, foundations, educational organizations, policy organizations, labor groups, among others, have been contributing to the OCTAE’s efforts as we all try to get our arms around the really big issues that need to be addressed if we are going to address what is essentially a national crisis.

On Tuesday, at the annual meeting of State Adult Education Directors in Washington, Secretary Arne Duncan and the OCTAE team shared a preliminary brief, Making Skills Everyone’s Business, in advance of a larger action plan that will be released later this summer.  OCTAE has identified seven strategies for all to consider as we innovate:

(1) Create joint ownership of solutions
(2) Expand opportunities for adults to improve foundation skills
(3) Make career pathways available and accessible in every community
(4) Ensure all students have access to highly effective teachers, leaders, and programs
(5) Align federal policies and programs to integrate services for adults
(6) Increase the return on investment in skills training for business, industry, and labor
(7) Commit to closing the equity gap for vulnerable sub-populations

During a panel presentation moderated by Acting Assistant Secretary of Education Johan Uvin, we shared our thoughts on the role technology can play in increasing access to education and training, as well as the returns on investment individuals, businesses, and society can realize when we develop new programs for a diverse population of adult learners.

Specifically, we highlighted the proliferation of mobile devices among immigrant and minority groups as an installed base of technologies that could be leveraged for training, enabling low-skilled workers to have access to content and resources 24-7 rather than often times limited and expensive location-based training programs that look like “more of the same.”  And, of course, we championed game-based learning experiences, which engage learners differently than traditional instruction and can be customized for different contexts and are adaptive to individual learners.

In terms of ROI, we pointed to the case studies and research we’ve highlighted here in recent months, suggesting that it really is “everyone’s business” to be tackling the challenges of adult education and training.  As they consider their roles in catalyzing transformation, we encouraged State Adult Education Directors to explore opportunities that aren’t part of the old playbook and take risks when exploring new programs at state and local levels.  Unless we attempt something bold and different, we will continue to fail ourselves and those who look to us for leadership, direction, and opportunity.