Transforming the Workforce
By Karen Delmonico
The Adult Education for Work iniative, a program that is geared to helping low-skilled workers acquire the basic skills they need in the 21st century workplace and to enhance the competitiveness of U.K. firms. This initiative was based on research conducted in part by the DWP.
The Employer Guide to on Adult Education for Work—Transforming Adult Education to Grow a Skilled Workforce is one of the publications produced by the One Step Forward Initiative. It identifies the critical workforce issues faced by many employers nationally, and provides a strategy for addressing those issues. This initiative reflects many of the ideas put forth in the 2015 Workforce 2020 Report, the local analysis of the local workforce and employer needs, and may provide new ideas for the next step in the local initiative.
The following are excerpts from this Employer Guide.
“The problem, as identified in this report, is that the United Kingdom faces an alarming challenge that seriously threatens our competitiveness in the global economy. A large and growing portion of the UK workforce lacks critical basic skills and work readiness competencies, posing an acute threat to our nation’s economic well-being. This is a critical issue for employers. Millions of adults do not have the foundation skills needed to get, retain or advance in a job.”
“Over one million young adults drop out of school each year. More than 12 million adults without a school qualifications are in the labour force today. And over 9 million adults in our country currently have no qualifications. These people—your current and/or future employees—need training.”
“At the same time, almost twice as many jobs over the next decade will require a postsecondary credential or college degree, up from 25 percent today to about 45 percent over the next decade… Yet far too many (13 million) score at the lower levels of national assessments of functional literacy skills and are unprepared to enroll in the postsecondary education or job training programs that can prepare them for current and future jobs.”
“…and U.K. employers are facing the retirement of the largest and most skilled workforce we have ever had in this country— the baby boom generation. The talent pool employers need to drive competitive advantage for their businesses is shrinking.”
“These dynamic forces are colliding, spurring a growing consensus about the need to reform our nation’s education and workforce systems to better enable low-skilled adults, including those without high school credentials, to pursue further education and ultimately family sustaining employment.”
“Currently, the goal of most adult education programs in the United Kingdom is to teach adults with low levels of education and/or limited English proficiency the ‘basic skills.’ The skills are basic in the sense that adult educators consider them to be the minimum literacy and language skills required to function effectively in social and economic life…By refocusing current adult education programs to meet the skill needs of employers and of regional economies, business and industry will be one step closer to attaining the critical workforce they need to remain competitive in a global economy. The Employer Guide to Adult Education for Work” provides information on this initiative to employers. It describes how employers can access and, where necessary, transform our current adult education system into a system that meets employer needs for more highly skilled workers. The Guide also provides tools to help employers take stock of their employees’ training needs, find education and training resources in our community, assess the quality of our local programs, advocate for change if programs do not meet their needs.
Overall, this initiative identifies a set of quality elements for ‘Adult Education for Work’ programs, intended to provide practitioners, policymakers and employers with the tools they need to begin this transformation of the adult education system. Constructing such a system will require substantial changes. To be successful, ‘Adult Education for Work’ and Career Pathways learning systems will require community- wide partnerships between adult education, postsecondary, workforce, and social service providers, as well as employers, unions, and economic development agencies to ensure that the skills taught at all levels meet the workforce needs of both workers and of regional employers. The development of this system will be worth the effort. It will provide greater education and economic opportunities for workers, and the skills that the nation’s employers and regional economies require to be competitive into the future.