Louisiana has shifted adult basic education from high schools to community colleges: Unemployed and underemployed adults can train for skilled jobs while studying for a GED through the Louisiana Community and Technical College System’s (LCTCS) Work Ready U, reports Community College Times.
Most Work Ready U students are training for jobs in construction trades and welding or health care jobs, such as nursing assistants, phlebotomists and pharmacy technicians.
Delgado Community College (DCC) now has 2,500 students in adult basic education, compared to 500 in 2007-08. DCC is one of 10 Louisiana community colleges in Jobs for the Future’s Accelerating Opportunity program. “There is no reason why a student should need a GED before they start on a career pathway,” said Barbara Endel, national project director for Accelerating Opportunity.
Traditional adult ed courses didn’t provide enough structure and support, said LCTCS Chancellor Joe May.
When ABE was administered by the K-12 education system, it was run on an “open-entry, open-exit approach,” May said. That didn’t work so well with people who had dropped out of school, so there were high attrition rates.
. . . Work Ready U programs limit the number of people who come in at any one time and provide extra counseling and social services. Also, switching GED courses to community colleges allowed for more flexible scheduling, including evening hours, which are more convenient for adults with families and jobs.
“Pushing someone to get a GED requires a ton of effort, particularly for adults with families,” said DCC Chancellor Monty Sullivan. However, it’s worth the effort. More Work Ready U students are enrolling in credit-bearing courses. On average, they are less likely to drop out than regular students.
Last year Congress dropped Pell Grant eligibility for high school dropouts who passed an “ability-to-benefit” test. To keep Work Ready U on track, DCC turned to foundations to fund tuition aid.
Community colleges will get $500 million in federal grants to fund job training. The Labor and Education departments will work together on the program, which will focus on “skills development and employment opportunities in fields such as advanced manufacturing, transportation and health care, as well as science, technology, engineering and math careers through partnerships between training providers and local employers.”
“Many employers are currently unable to fill well-paying jobs because applicants lack the skills,” says JFF President and CEO Marlene B. Seltzer. “Today’s good jobs require education beyond high school and training that prepares workers with practical skills that employers need. Accelerating Opportunity focuses on educational programs that lead to the credentials workers need to secure a family-sustaining job and long-lasting career opportunities.”
Accelerating Opportunity hopes to create career pathways leading to “marketable, stackable, credit-bearing credentials” in at least 40 community colleges by 2014.
Over 26 million adults lack a high school diploma, but less than 10 percent are enrolled in adult basic education programs. Many who try adult ed quit after a semester or two without earning any credential.
“The number of adults without skills and credentials beyond high school is a national crisis threatening our economic recovery,” says Marlene B. Seltzer, president of JFF. “At the same time, employers are having difficulty finding qualified workers to fill skilled positions that command a higher salary.”
Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, and Wisconsin will receive $200,000 grants to support the redesign effort. In the second phase, five states will receive implementation grants of $1.6 million.
The initiative, which will involve nearly 40 community colleges and 18,000 adult learners, builds on JFF’s Breaking Through, as well as Washington State’s I-BEST program.
Funders include the Gates Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations. The National Council on Workforce Education, National College Transition Network, and the Washington State Board of Community & Technical Colleges will partner with JFF on the project.