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Adult Education and the WIBs: An Opportunity for Partnerships

Posted on 10/19/2011

Man with hardhat on phone

Governor Jerry Brown has signed a bill that will require local workplace investment boards (WIBs) to channel at least one quarter of their funding towards programs that will teach the unemployed the new skills needed for the changing US economy and job market. Currently, California receives up to $500 million in federal funding every year. In 2016, the percentage of mandatory funding for job training will increase from 25% to 30% annually.

The bill, SB 734 (DeSaulnierD) includes Adult Education and literacy programs as part of the "job training’ component", IF combined with occupational and job readiness training. While job training programs are currently part of the services and programs offered through many WIBs, the average amount spent on job training is about 20% statewide. Many WIBs now focus on getting people back to work quickly by building resumes, practicing interview skills and intensive job searches.

The rationale behind this funding change is the recognition that many workers lack the basic math, reading and higher level skills needed to be successful in today's more demanding, and higher paying, job market. While opponents of the bill question whether the unemployed can afford to spend time in training programs, proponents believe that  the longer-term benefit of raising the skill level of workers will have a more lasting and productive impact on for individuals, and on the economy in general.

Why is this Bill Important for Adult Education?

This bill will shift more funds toward actual vocational training/re-training, and away from some of the current WIB focus on of resume writing, practice interviewing, and job search. In this bill, Governor Brown officially recognizes the potential for leveraging Adult Education as a component of occupational training leading to employment.

Adult Education providers throughout California are poised to be part of the solution to training adults for employment through education and occupational training, as many existing programs already are fulfilling this capacity. At the local level, this means that city and county officials responsible for managing WIBs' programs should be contacting local Adult Education programs to leverage the two revenue sources. If not contacted, Adult Educators should initiate the contact using SB 734 (DeSaulnierD) as the basis.

Adult Educators are advised to read the actual provisions of the legislation. Go to SB 734 (DeSaulnierD). A recent LA Times Article, written by Marc Lifsher, also provides relevant information and comment.