Around the country, and right here in Rhode Island, the voices that support adult education and workforce development as an integral part of an overall strategy to improve the national and local economy cannot be ignored.
In April, a report prepared for the U.S. Department of Education by the National Research council of the National Academies declared that, “Virtually everyone needs a high level of literacy in both print and digital media to negotiate most aspects of 21st-century life, such as succeeding in a competitive job market.”
However, the report concluded, “according to the most recent survey estimate, more than 90 million adults in the United States lack the literacy skills needed for fully productive and secure lives.”
The report recommends these steps to bolster adult-literacy education in the Unite States:
• Build on and expand the infrastructure of adult-literacy education by using research and evaluation.
• Improve professional development and technical assistance.
• Provide options that improve persistence among adult learners.
• Provide sustained investment in a coordinated and systematic approach to program improvement, evaluation and research.
The report also concluded, “partnerships need to be developed among researchers, curriculum developers and administrators across the systems that serve adult learners. Enlisting business leaders and community groups in that effort is also important.”
In Rhode Island, that is already happening. Laurie White, president of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, declared at a recent roundtable focused on adult education and workforce development, “Workforce development. It is the issue.”
Meanwhile, the Rhode Island Economic Progress Institute, formerly known as the Poverty Institute, maintains that, “A skilled workforce is key to Rhode Island’s economic recovery and future competitiveness. Workers must have some level of post-secondary education or training to fill the middle-skill occupations that comprise the majority of Rhode Island’s jobs.”
To do that, the organization argues, “Rhode Island must increase state investments in workforce-skills training,” including restoring $2 million for basic-skills training and appropriating another $2 million for workforce-development activities of the Governor’s Workforce Board.