Center for American Progress

Align Workforce and Postsecondary Policies for Working Adults
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Align Workforce and Postsecondary Policies for Working Adults

There need to be stronger connections between workforce programs and adult education systems so participants can seamlessly move across education and training systems to improve the skills necessary for productive employment.

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More than 3 million working adults are served through education and training programs funded by Adult Basic Education and Literacy programs, and by education and skills-development programs supported by Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or TANF, Food Stamps Education and Training, or FSET, and the Workforce Investment Act, or WIA. Yet these programs are rarely aligned with postsecondary education programs that lead to credentials.

Moreover, since 1979 investments in employment education and skills-development programs have declined in real terms by more than 70 percent. Several advocacy and research organizations familiar with adult education programs have argued for stronger connections between workforce programs and adult education systems so participants can seamlessly move across education and training systems to improve the skills necessary for productive employment. For example, the Center for Law and Social Policy recommends that Congress provide additional flexibility in WIA Title I so states can better meet the needs of limited English proficient speakers and low-skills adults. The idea is for more adults to co-enroll in WIA Title I programs and adult basic education programs.

In addition to these important changes, workforce and skills-development programs should further be aligned with federal access policies so more working adults can pursue and obtain postsecondary credentials. For instance, low-income working adults who pursue a GED through Adult Basic Education programs or those who participate in industry-specific education and training programs funded through WIA, TANF, or FSET (or other federal workforce programs) should automatically qualify for the Pell Grant if they successfully complete their workforce education and skills-development program of study.

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