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Integrating Workforce Development into the Classroom

Happy Workforce Wednesday, readers! WAM is more than halfway over, but we’re not even close to filling your workforce toolkits. Last week, we talked about partnerships between community-based organizations and Workforce Development Boards. As Adult Education and Literacy becomes more workforce-oriented, it is increasingly important to connect with people in your community who know the local needs and trends.

Career-Minded Learners

Many of your learners will seek your services with their careers in mind. Whether they are building their English fluency, developing computer skills, or preparing for a high school equivalency exam, adult learners are often focused on acquiring a job, finding a better job, or launching a career. The critical question for educators is, “When should I introduce workforce preparation into my curriculum?” For Melissa Sadler-Nitu, Director of the I-BEST Program at Alamo College and Vice Chair of the Alamo Workforce Development Board, the answer to that question is: right away!

The Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) program was originally developed in Washington in response to a growing need for basic technical skills training among ABE and ESL students and so these students could succeed in college-level occupational programs. The I-BEST program has since been adapted for use in multiple states, including Texas. For students who are preparing to enter college classrooms, but need basic skills training to access technical programs that will advance their careers, the I-BEST program has shown to powerfully support their efforts.

Bringing Career Pathways to Your Classroom

However, for many of the students who seek community-based services, the costs of college programs are prohibitive, and they might lack spoken English proficiency. Sadler-Nitu asserts that the perfect time for these students to begin preparing for the workforce is during their very first lesson. In her presentation on Career Pathways, Sadler-Nitu showcases the Career and Educational Pathways program, a collaborative effort with Cambridge University Press. This curriculum is free to download and correlates each lesson group to official NRS levels of educational proficiency. From the very first lesson in the Ventures program, entitled “Personal Life History,” students are practicing for job interviews. They learn how to describe their technical and soft skills, how to map a career path that interests them, and how to set measurable goals toward career success. You can check out Sadler-Nitu’s entire presentation here.

WIOA and You

This post would not be complete without talking about the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). This comprehensive federal policy requires state grant recipients to integrate workforce preparation into their curricula as part of the transformation of Adult Education and Literacy from a department of higher education to a workforce development initiative.

For those of you with Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) funds, this is a very familiar refrain. At Literacy Texas, we want to know: how has your program adapted to WIOA standards? What challenges have you encountered? What are your success stories? Comment below to start the conversation! And if you’re a community-based organization who is still unsure about WIOA’s application to your program, check out this free ebook, sponsored by Essential Education, that puts WIOA guidelines into plain language and shows you how to integrate workforce skills into your lesson plans.

Workforce Awareness Month concludes next week with a call to action: we’ll talk about how YOU can effectively advocate on behalf of your organization, at the local level and beyond! Workforce integration is a community effort, and you must hone your advocacy skills to make sure Adult Education and Literacy participates in the conversation. See you next week!

For more information about the I-BEST program, read this report by the Community College Research Center.

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