The adult basic education system can be a bright spot for many Texans looking to better their career prospects, find stable employment, and earn a thriving wage. In fact, Texas’ adult basic education providers—anchored in local nonprofits and community colleges— are moving the state forward in getting adult learners into higher wage work by braiding numerous funding sources and program approaches to improve student outcomes. Although Texas has underinvested in adult education compared to other states, the state can significantly expand on the great work taking place around the state.
Earlier this month, the Tex-Best Workforce Literacy Summit in San Antonio convened members of workforce boards, adult education providers, business leaders and other educators to learn about proven tools in adult education design and delivery. The conference was sponsored by Alamo Colleges, Community College Consortium of Immigration Education, and Texas LEARNS. The summit shared exciting news about innovative practices going on in Texas’ adult basic education programs, including the I-BEST, TISESL and the C-4 projects that help move adult learners into skills training and postsecondary certificate and degree programs within a short timeframe. These successful programs build career pathways for hard working Texans and support business growth and productivity with higher skilled workers.
The summit highlighted not only the positive initiatives and gains that Texas is making towards a stronger and more effective adult education system, it provided specific examples and models for participants to take back home to implement and promote in their communities. Some of the great collaborations that are spreading to other areas of the state include the Good Careers Academy partnership with Goodwill Industries of San Antonio and Alamo Community College. The program provides a curriculum that integrates basic academic skills with college-credit technical skills training, leading to a certificate and job placement.
The Workforce Readiness Continuum (WERC), a Central Texas-based collaborative, is merging adult education and the workforce priorities to accelerate outcomes and create a common platform for local, state, and federal funding streams.
College readiness programs that work with transitioning adult learners into postsecondary education are also showing promising results. The Aurora Project at Lone Star College works with recent GED graduates and returning adult learners to prepare them for entry into postsecondary courses. Aurora combines an intensive college readiness program with courses structured closely to English and math developmental education courses. Students receive additional support services, such as academic advising and counseling, and mentors, alongside their 8-week course of study.
These programs stand out because they effectively combine expertise across departments and agencies, and leverage funding from multiple sources to provide a system that best serves the adult learner, including scheduling, low cost, integrated basic skills and technical training, and a certificate or credential that leads to a stable career.
Finally, the Tex-Best Summit concluded with a session to develop recommendations for a legislative agenda. One of the emerging themes of the conference and the policy session is that ABE providers can do more to make sure our state and local leaders understand the great work taking place across the state and how essential these programs are to moving under-skilled Texans into stable careers. Some of the policy opportunities identified during the conference include:
- Promoting career pathways through increased funding for education and training in skilled occupations
- Increase support for successful ABE pilot projects and begin looking to scale programs statewide
- Restore and expand one-stop workforce centers around the state
- Ensure that the new GED 2014 test is affordable and accessible around the state