Our initial aim is to examine the role of adult education programs as a gateway to career pathway transitions and outcomes for lower-skilled adults and immigrants. The 2-year study will explore how adult education providers in three cities integrate career pathway components, and interact with workforce development and postsecondary systems, to enable these adults to access career pathways. The project will identify outcomes, promising practices, and practices in development so that peer agencies can better share knowledge to shape effective practices and policy.
Why focus on adult career pathways? The National Center for Education Statistics estimates that 93 million adults function below the high school level in reading and math. Because many of these learners have low incomes and struggle to enter higher education or obtain living-wage jobs, career pathways are a prevalent strategy to help them access employment and postsecondary education. The career pathways concept has been jointly endorsed by the federal Departments of Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services and figures prominently in the 2014 reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act that funds adult education and literacy instruction.
Why study these urban areas? Quite simply, urban areas have the greatest concentrations of under-skilled and immigrant adults, due to both their larger scale and higher rates of need than in most other places. Together, Chicago, Houston, and Miami are home to over 5% of the nation’s adults without a high school degree and nearly 10% of all limited-English proficient U.S. residents (1.5 and 2.4 million, respectively). This study also provides a window into three of the nation’s five largest bellwether states at the forefront of U.S. demographic trends, where the cities have a disproportionate share of high-need adult populations.
Why is this research needed? As career pathway initiatives proliferate in federal, state, and local policy and practice, there is wide variation among approaches and little common ground to measure success and best practices. This research project examines the patchwork of service provision across major urban areas in three states, and across diverse providers and data collection systems to better understand how career pathways are designed, implemented and measured.