Spotlights innovative states focusing efforts on future economic prosperity by prioritizing industry and occupational sectors that offer good jobs relevant to local communities and post-secondary access and attainment for adults with lower basic skills or limited English proficiency.

“A changing economy and changing demographics in the workforce compel us as a country to reach out to adults who may not have entered or completed postsecondary programs in the past, and restructure adult basic education, workforce development, and other postsecondary education programs to better meet these students’ needs, and in turn, meet the needs of employers for skilled workers. Our economy over the last twenty years has placed a growing premium on education and training beyond high school; at the same time, trends in worker skills are moving in the wrong direction. Younger workers are less educated than those who are retiring and, over the last two decades, the share of prime-age workers (ages 25 to 49) enrolled in postsecondary education has fallen….

Launched in 2007 and supported by a combined investment of nearly $16 million in Joyce Foundation and matching state funds, Shifting Gears is helping states to scale up and sustain innovation in adult education, workforce development and postsecondary education. By focusing on state policy change, Shifting Gears is designed to spark lasting reform that enables more adults—particularly those who enter the workforce with lower basic skills or limited English proficiency—to earn postsecondary credentials that lead to good jobs ” (p. 2). (Abstractor : Author)

Major Findings & Recommendations

Key Findings and Practices: “A changing economy places a growing premium on education. The changing structure of our economy over the last twenty years has placed a growing premium on education and training beyond the high school level. Men who have at least a two- or four-year college degree have seen their earnings hold steady. Women with similar credentials have seen their incomes rise. However, the earnings of those holding only a high school diploma have dropped substantially for men, by about a third. Male high school dropouts have fared the worst; their earnings have fallen almost by half” (p.5). "Creating New Paths to Credentials and Careers: State innovation in this area includes breaking longer diploma and degree programs into shorter certificate modules, prioritizing industry and occupational sectors that offer good jobs in career pathways, and offering classes at a wider variety of places, days, and times. Shifting Gears states sometimes use the concept of ‘career pathways’ to frame their work in this area. Career pathways ‘offer a series of connected education and training programs and support services that enable individuals to get jobs in specific industries, and to advance over time to successfully complete higher levels of education and work in that industry.’ They include ‘embedded’ or ‘stackable’ credentials connected to each step in the pathway. These credentials, such as occupational certificates, have value to employers by themselves, and also build toward longer technical diplomas and degrees. Two state efforts with this focus that have been implemented in Shifting Gears are Wisconsin’s RISE Career Pathways and Indiana’s College for Working Adults" (p.7). "Connecting Basic Skills to College and Career Success: "Shifting Gears states have also created new ‘bridge’ models that combine basic skills content with workforce readiness, support services, and the knowledge and skills needed for a specific occupation (or cluster of occupations). Some of these bridge models are new programs; others are new types of adult basic or technical education courses; and there are also models which use new co-instructional approaches within existing courses…Shifting Gears work implemented in this area includes Illinois Shifting Gears Bridges, Wisconsin RISE Career Pathway Bridges, and Indiana’s Embedded Skills pilots” (p.7). (Abstractor: Author)