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2015 Shifting Gears Report Released


New workforce development strategies in 3 Midwestern states chart path for low-skilled adult workers to gain foothold in changing economy

CHICAGO – The success of new education and skills development programs for adult learners in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois demonstrates how states can effectively help low-skilled workers gain the knowledge and credentials they need to get a foothold in the shifting economic landscape, according to a report released today.

The report evaluates the final phase of a seven-year, $13 million workforce initiative of the Joyce Foundation in collaboration with several states. Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin more than doubled the number of transitional or “bridge” basic education programs at community and technical colleges and other adult learning settings between 2012 and 2014, according to the report. The three states also more than doubled the number of adult learners served by the programs, to 10,345.

This progress demonstrates that with the right policies and sufficient funding, states can develop effective ways to meet a critical social and economic need. An estimated 36 million American workers lack the basic skills they need to succeed. And, it is predicted that about two thirds of all job openings over the next few years will require at least some skill development and a postsecondary credential.

Bridge programs link adults in literacy GED programs to college-level occupational programs that provide college counseling and support services, and also teach basic skills as they apply to specific occupations. They are a key component of the Career Pathways approach, in which education is structured as stepping stones on a path leading to good jobs in high-demand fields.

“Eight years ago, we set out to work with the states on solutions to a growing and serious problem: the number of Americans left behind in a changing economy. This remains a significant challenge today and must be at the forefront of public policy in coming years,” said Ellen Alberding, president of the Joyce Foundation.

Johan Uvin, Acting Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education, said, "State policies that encourage bridge programs for older youth and low-skilled and low-wage adults, such as those promoted through Shifting Gears, have had a positive impact on the national dialogue about career pathways and workforce development. The goal of helping adult learners increase their skills and earn valuable credentials is now widely embraced in the workforce field and adult education, and is a core principle in the reauthorized Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act."

Read the report here. 

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