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Advocating for AEL in a Workforce Framework

Welcome to the final Workforce Wednesday blog post! This blog series will end, but the blog will continue to bring you top-notch information and resources. This is a site you want to bookmark! So far, we’ve discussed what a Workforce Development Board does, how you can partner with your local board, and ways to incorporate workforce development in the classroom. Now, for the final week of Workforce Awareness Month, we will discuss advocacy in the context of today’s Adult Education and Literacy landscape.

Advocacy? Do You Mean Lobbying?

Not quite! Calling for the passage of certain laws is certainly a piece of advocacy, but it is one small slice in a delicious advocacy pie. The rest includes: building relationships with community leaders and legislators, educating your community about issues related to adult education and workforce preparedness, and raising awareness about your organization and its needs. Let’s look at each piece in detail.

Congress Works for You

Those of you who attended the 2017 Literacy Texas Advocacy Day might remember this, but it is worth repeating: You are the experts in your field! Advocacy can be intimidating if you think of your state and national legislators as very important people who know about all of the issues affecting their constituents and only have the time to speak with other important people. However, the reality is that legislators love hearing from their constituents, and they want to know what is going on in their districts. As a provider of adult education, you have firsthand knowledge of the effects that laws like the Workforce Integration and Opportunity Act (WIOA) have on adult learners. In other words, your legislators need you to provide necessary insight and feedback on their work.

Put this date into your calendar: May 29, 2017. This is the day that both your state and national senators and representatives will return to their district offices. The national legislators will only be in town for a week, but state legislators will remain in their offices until the next legislative session, which is not until 2019. The best way to initiate a relationship with your elected officials is to visit. Bring literature about your program, examples of student work, and even the students themselves. You might only have one meeting with your national representative before they return to Washington, D.C., but you have much more time with your local congress members. This is an informational meeting: you do not need to “convince” them of anything. Rather, you are letting them know that you exist, you are meeting a need in the community, and you are seeking their collaboration in meeting that need. You can even invite them to speak at your next graduation ceremony, or to take a tour of your facilities. Find out who represents you at the state level here and at the national level here.

Educate & Elevate: A National Awareness Campaign

The Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE) is spearheading a national campaign to increase awareness of adult education efforts and highlight its importance to the economic future of the United States. The campaign illustrates the many positive impacts that adult education has on our communities, and calls for more collaboration between educators and businesses. They created an excellent fact sheet that you can take with you to your legislative meetings. Learn more about Educate & Elevate, and sign up for their distribution list, at COABE also advocates on a national level, and our own board member, Joshua Hayes, is representing Texas today at COABE’s Capitol Hill Day in Washington, D.C.!

Build Your Online Presence
During the first week of Workforce Awareness Month, we encouraged you to investigate your local Workforce Development Board’s website. Did you find an Adult Education and Literacy section? The Lower Rio Grande Valley and Brazos Valley have great examples. If you can’t find an AEL section on your region’s website, reach out to your Workforce Development Board and advocate for one! This is a great way to build a relationship with your Board and increase access to adult education programs in your area.

You Know the Recipe for Your Perfect Advocacy Pie

These suggestions are a starting point, but ultimately, you are the expert on the way things work in your region. For more ideas, see COABE’s site, and remember that anyone, and especially you, can advocate for Adult Education and Literacy. Happy Workforce Wednesday — now get to work on that pie-baking!

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