Examines the adult education career pathways progress made in three states from 2012 – 2014 and reviews how Shifting Gears influenced the national discourse on increasing skills and credentials for adult learners.

“The Joyce Foundation extended Shifting Gears funding from 2012 – 2014 (referred to as SG 3.0) in Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. These states had committed to expanding adult education bridge programs to increase the number of students transitioning into postsecondary education. Such bridge programs are designed to link and integrate basic academic skills with postsecondary occupational credit-based learning in key industry sectors. These bridge programs typically involve contextualized curriculum and instruction, career development, and enhanced student services and supports. Often they are directly connected with additional postsecondary courses as part of a career pathway that leads to postsecondary credentials and degrees.


This report provides details and insights on the efforts and progress made in [these states]. During this three-year period, the evaluation team conducted in-depth site visits and regular telephone interviews with key state staff and policy leaders as well as with local practitioners and stakeholders engaged in the Shifting Gears initiative. The evaluation team also worked with state data teams to help generate the data and analyses of adult basic education bridge programs and participant outcomes.


The report concludes with an assessment of the extent to which the three states have reformed their adult basic education, workforce and community and technical college systems to better meet the needs of low-skilled workers and employers, as well as a review of how the Shifting Gears work influenced the national discourse on increasing skills and credentials for adult learners” (p. 5).


(Abstractor: Author)


Full publication title: Building Career Pathways for Adult Learners: An Evaluation of Progress in Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin After Eight Years of Shifting Gears

Major Findings & Recommendations

“The evaluation reached five primary findings: • Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin doubled the total number of their bridge programs from 79 to 196 between SG 2.0 to SG 3.0. This growth includes expanding adult basic education bridge programs to more adult education providers and more community and technical college campuses. • Each state effectively institutionalized its adult education bridge program as an ongoing option to address the educational and skill needs of low-skilled adult learners. Altogether, the number of participants served more than doubled, from 4,000 during SG 2.0 to 10,345 during SG 3.0. • In two of the three states (Minnesota and Wisconsin), important policy changes expanded financial resources available for adult education bridges, and created the foundation for further advancing adult education bridges. These changes included reallocating current resources as well as new state funding dedicated to sustaining the expansion of bridge programs. Minnesota now has an $11.2 million allocated fund for career pathway and bridge programs in the biennium budget and Wisconsin has a $4 million annual fund to support these same program approaches. • Scale was not achieved during this period in terms of serving many or most of the low-skilled adults who might benefit from bridge programs. Altogether during SG 3.0 the three states served less than five percent of the adult learners in need. States grew their programs opportunistically rather than setting intentional goals and strategies around scaling. • The work of Shifting Gears positively influenced the national discourse on workforce development. The goal of helping adult learners increase their skills and earn credentials is now widely embraced in the workforce field and can be found as a core principle in the recently reauthorized federal workforce development legislation, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)” (p.3). (Abstractor: Author)