Workforce preparation is an essential component of integrated education and training programs (IET),and it is also a valuable addition to any adult education course offering. As many classes and training programs transition to distance learning models, workforce preparation activities become increasingly important to support learners as they become more independent and self-directed in their learning.
Workforce preparation activities, as defined by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), refer to skills and competencies that are not only useful in the workplace, but are fundamental life skills that include critical thinking, digital skills, self-management, working with others, and understanding information and systems.
Workforce preparation is not solely about integrating occupational content into academic instruction; it involves adapting instructional practice to mimic workplace expectations, such as working in groups, solving problems, locating information, and using technology to learn and communicate.
This page will feature updated resources for instructional practices that facilitate workforce preparation, content and resources to support contextualization, and examples of innovative practice for delivering workforce preparation at a distance.
United States Department of Labor, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Attachment III, Key Terms and Definitions.
Instructional Strategies for Workforce Preparation
Below is a selection of ready-to-use resources and evidence-based instructional strategies for integrating and contextualizing instruction, two important components of delivering engaging workforce preparation activities in adult education programs.
I-BEST, Washington State Board for Community and Technical College (I-BEST, Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training.)
On this page, you’ll find six research-based strategies, evidence-based theory, video samples of effective instruction, and curricula samples. The resources in this section can function as a self-directed learning module or as the basis for group instruction.
These four videos show demonstrations of six approaches to co-teaching and collaboration. These instructional strategies can be used to support and strengthen collaboration between occupational and academic instructors in the classroom and at a distance for a more aligned and integrated education and training experience.
National College Transition Network (NCTN)
The Integrating Career Awareness into the ABE & ESOL Classroom curriculum is a ready-to-use, flexible curriculum that prepares adult educators to incorporate career awareness and planning into their instructional and counseling activities. The lessons and handouts can be adapted for a range of students and skill levels.
Perkins Collaborative Resource Network, U.S. Department of Education
The Employability Skills Framework is a freely available tool that was created to support the development of essential personal and interpersonal skills necessary for individuals to be college and career ready. The Employability Skills Lesson Planning Checklist may be downloaded to support the integration of workforce preparation into academic instruction. The nine general employability skills are broken down into the checklist so that they are easily incorporated into a lesson.
Illinois Statewide Career Pathways Contextualized Basic Skills Curriculum and Resources, Illinois Community College Board (ICCB)
The focus of the Statewide Basic Skills Curriculum is to introduce a variety of fields to educate and train workers for sustainable employment or post-secondary training. The goal is to combine adult education academics with the skills needed in the workplace through contextualized instruction. The instruction includes a combination of identified workplace competencies, career exploration, and basic skills presented in an occupational context.
The site features an IELCE Toolkit; Healthcare, Manufacturing, and Logistics curricula; as well as a Career Pathways curriculum guide for ABE/ASE learners.
Workforce Preparation Content Resources
These resources include content and skills practice to support learners’ continuing development of essential soft skills, digital skills, and job readiness skills.
The lessons on this site can be used with learners to support career planning, to apply for jobs, to balance work and life, practice basic computer and tablet skills, learn about online safety, and to complete training needed to succeed in today’s marketplace. The site includes a teacher’s guide.
The Career OneStop Video Library includes videos and video tutorials about a wide range aspects of workforce preparation from career exploration to job training to the application process. On this site learners can learn about fields in high demand, take an assessment, research job options, make a career plan, learn about education and training opportunities, locate certifications, search job listings in their local area or across the country, read tips on networking, resumes, interviews and more.
The Pathways Curriculum introduces essential foundational soft skills that employers expect of all employees, even those at the entry level, regardless of literacy skills. Pathways targets adult learners who read at the second through fourth grade equivalency level, or who are transitioning into grade equivalent 5. Lessons adhere to the college career readiness standards, and activities include reading, writing, speaking, listening, numeracy, and digital skills practice in the context of the workplace. Each unit of this curriculum may take from 6 to 8 weeks to complete, and all documents are freely downloadable for printing. The Pathways curriculum is based on the Department of Labor’s Skills to Pay the Bills soft skills curriculum.
Workforce Preparation Resources in the IET Blueprint
Workforce Preparation at a Distance
In Virginia, adult education providers are quickly adapting to the new virtual realities of delivering integrated education and training and continuing to support learners in strengthening workforce skills. Following is a list of ideas that Virginia adult education programs have enacted this spring to keep IET and workforce preparation activities going at a distance.
- Facilitating regular opt-in Zoom sessions to guide learners through resume writing and job searching on Virginia’s Workforce Connection.
- Tapping into workforce skills videos to continue practicing until face-to-face skills training options are safely available again.
- Supplementing instructional programming with online career readiness curricula, such as SkillsUSA or Bring Your ‘A’ Game from the Center for Work Ethic Development.
Workforce preparation is a vital component of adult education’s role in our state’s workforce development system and one that is especially critical now as employers reimagine and restructure how they recruit, train, and upskill their workers. The strategies and resources in this article can be a starting point for more deeply integrating practice and content that support learners’ development and strengthening of essential workforce skills, including flexibility, time management, critical thinking, and greater experience with technology as a vehicle for learning and communicating.