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OVAE Tackles Improving U.S. Adult Skills


November 13, 2013


OVAE Tackles Improving U.S. Adult Skills

As I reported last month, the U.S. performed below average on numeracy, literacy and problem solving in technology-rich environments in the OECD Survey of Adult Skills. An event yesterday hosted by the Center for American Progress delved into these findings, proposed solutions and featured an announcement from the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) about its plans to address adult skills deficiencies.

Research and recommendations from Time for the U.S. To Reskill?, an OECD Skills Study, were presented:

  • Greater proportions of adults in the U.S. have poor numeracy and literacy skills, in comparison to other countries.
  • The link between literacy skills and health is much stronger in the U.S. than in other countries.
  • Socioeconomic status has a greater impact on adult literacy skills in the U.S. than in other countries, and African-American and Hispanic adults are over-represented in the low-skilled population.

On a positive note, participation in adult education and training (including everything from basic literacy programs to university education) is higher in the U.S. than in most countries, plus more than 60 percent of low-skilled adults are in the workforce and could be aided through employer-supported training.

Policy recommendations in the brief include using the strengths of the community college system to help young adults access education; encouraging the learning of basic skills along with work-based learning through CTE and employer training; and aligning efforts across public and private sectors. These recommendations were echoed by a panel session in which the speakers highlighted several strategies for improving adult skills, such as high-quality CTE, sector and pathway approaches and accelerated, contextualized developmental education.

Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier of OVAE announced a cross-agency engagement process on improving adult skills, which will include OVAE-hosted conversations around the country and other opportunities to provide input.

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