National Center on Education and the Economy
Why is transition to further education and work so important?
Recent research on the earnings of Adult Education students conducted by the state of Washington
(through its I-BEST program) and related studies
shows that most Adult Education students
achieve signi cant near term earnings gains only if their basic skills instruction is followed by
or combined with at least one year of college and/or completion of a program of specialized
technical training ending in a certi cation. Washington's I-BEST program refers to this as the
"tipping point," the time at which students begin to see such earnings gains as a result of their
Unfortunately, most Adult Education students do not reach this tipping point. Even students who
have completed the highest levels of Adult Education, including those who obtain high school
equivalency certi cates, are far more likely than other students to be placed in college developmental
or remedial education programs when pursuing further education because they lack the skills
required to succeed in postsecondary education. ey are also far less likely than other students who
enter college to complete postsecondary certi cates or degrees.
The Nation Needs a New System
To meet the skill needs of the nation's employers and to provide greater educational and economic
opportunities for America's workers, especially those with the lowest skill levels, we advocate for
the development of a new Career Pathways system, with Adult Education for Work programs as
In a comprehensive Career Pathways learning system, Adult Education for Work would be fully
aligned with postsecondary education and training (degree and non-degree technical certi cate
programs), workforce and supportive service activities (many of which are provided through
One- Stop Career Centers), and with regional workforce and economic development strategies, so as
to meet the skill needs of existing and emerging regional employers as well as the needs of low-skilled
adults. A visual of such a system is shown on page 9.
Under such a system, seamless Career Pathways would be developed and o ered that make it far
easier for adults--especially those with limited basic skills--to advance through progressive levels
of the educational system as quickly as possible. ey would gain education and workforce skills of
demonstrated value at each level.
A Skilled and Educated Workforce: An assessment of the number and type of higher education and training credentials required to meet employer demand,
December 2005, a joint report by the Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board, the Washington State Board of Community and Technical
Colleges, and the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board, Olympia Washington, www.wtb.wa.gov/Pubs/2005_Related_SEW-1.pdf. See
also David Prince and Davis Jenkins: Building Pathways to Success for Low-Skill Adult Students, (New York: Community College Research Center, 2005).
"Career Pathways" is a term for a series of connected education and training programs and support services that enable individuals to secure
employment within a speci c industry or occupational sector, and to advance over time to successively higher levels of education and employment
in that sector. An early exponent, from whom this de nition is drawn, is the Workforce Strategies Center; see their 2002 report Building A Career
Pathways System: Promising Practices in Community-College Centered Workforce Development, by Julian L. Alssid, et al. e report is available at: