Press Release: Jobs for the Future’s Accelerating Opportunity Initiative Awards Grants to Eleven States to Transform Adult Education

Published aug. 04, 2011

BOSTON, MA (August 4, 2011) – JFF today announced the grantees of Accelerating Opportunity: A Breaking Through Initiative, which will challenge states across the country to transform adult education systems into more successful pathways leading to economic security. Accelerating Opportunity targets workers who are underprepared for today’s demanding job market and builds on the legacy of JFF’s innovative adult education initiative Breaking Through, as well as Washington State’s I-BEST program. It is supported by a strategic partnership of five of the nation’s leading philanthropies.

Accelerating Opportunity has two phases. The first 11 states selected—Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, and Wisconsin—have each been awarded $200,000 to support efforts to redesign adult basic education and postsecondary programs to integrate basic skills with practical, occupational training. Approximately five of these states will then be selected to receive implementation grants of $1.6 million each over three years to implement their plans. The initiative will engage nearly 40 community colleges across the country and impact over 18,000 adult learners.

“The number of adults without skills and credentials beyond high school is a national crisis threatening our economic recovery,” says JFF President and CEO Marlene B. Seltzer. “At the same time, employers are having difficulty finding qualified workers to fill skilled positions that command a higher salary. The trend will only continue—by 2018, 70 percent of all jobs will require workers with some form of postsecondary credentials.”

Over 26 million adults lack a high school diploma. While just over 2.5 million of these individuals are enrolled in adult basic education programs, many of them leave after only a semester or two, not earning any form of postsecondary credential. Accelerating Opportunity seeks to change the way adult basic education is delivered by putting students on track to earn a postsecondary credential and providing them with the support needed to succeed. Educational pathways to higher skills, credentials, and employment will be rigorously tested and independently evaluated. This evidence will be provided to philanthropy, labor, employers, adult education planners and other stakeholders to ensure that adult education programs lead to postsecondary credentials and good jobs.

Accelerating Opportunity is funded by a strategic collaboration of diverse philanthropies including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations. For program and implementation expertise, JFF has engaged the National Council on Workforce Education, National College Transition Network, and the Washington State Board of Community & Technical Colleges as partners.

“This is a serious economic issue, as well as an education issue. There is a mismatch between the high-demand, high-skilled jobs currently available and the skills workers currently have,” says Hilary Pennington, director of Postsecondary Success, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Accelerating Opportunity links directly with our work in postsecondary education, and most importantly, it will address the needs of a traditionally underserved population on community college campuses.”

Accelerating Opportunity is informed by the Breaking Through initiative, which has promoted the support of 41 community colleges in 22 states to improve career pathways and postsecondary education for low-skilled adults.

“Building from our previous work with Breaking Through, states will get the opportunity to identify the barriers to success for their residents and design a plan that will address the unique needs of their workforces and communities,” says Maria Flynn, JFF vice president, Building Economic Opportunity. “We are thrilled to expand this work and engage every important stakeholder, from community college presidents and trustees to local politicians and policymakers, allowing for redesigned programs that are genuinely sustainable.”


About the National Council on Workforce Education


The National Council for Workforce Education is committed to promoting excellence and growth in workforce education. As an affiliate council of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), NCWE provides a national forum for administrators and faculty in workforce education and basic skills, as well as representatives of business, labor, military, and government, to affect and direct the future role of two-year and other post-secondary institutions in workforce education and economic development. NCWE provides the link between policy and workforce education and economic development by providing support, research, and critical information to members on current and future trends and policies.

About the National College Transition Network 

The National College Transition Network (NCTN) at World Education, Inc. supports adult education staff, programs, and states, and regional and municipal agencies in establishing and strengthening college transition services. NCTN accomplishes this through technical  assistance, professional development, collegial sharing, advocacy, and publications that focus on the needs of the field. NCTN connects policy and research and practice to help build the capacity and expertise in adult education.

About the Washington State Board of Community & Technical Colleges 

The State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) is responsible for administering the Community and Technical College Act and providing leadership and coordination for Washington's public system of 34 community and technical colleges. The SBCTC is governed by a nine-member board appointed by the Governor. The SBCTC is headquartered in Olympia.

About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.

About the Joyce Foundation

The Joyce Foundation supports efforts to protect the natural environment of the Great Lakes, to reduce poverty and violence in the region, and to ensure that its people have access to good schools, decent jobs, and a diverse and thriving culture. We are especially interested in improving public policies, because public systems such as education and welfare directly affect the lives of so many people, and because public policies help shape private sector decisions about jobs, the environment, and the health of our communities. To ensure that public policies truly reflect public rather than private interests, we support efforts to reform the system of financing election campaigns.

About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation 

Established in 1930, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation supports children, families and communities as they strengthen and create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success as individuals and as contributors to the larger community and society. Grants are concentrated in the United States, southern Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

About the Kresge Foundation

The Kresge Foundation is a $3.1 billion private, national foundation that seeks to influence the quality of life for future generations through its support of nonprofit organizations in six fields of interest: arts and culture, community development, education, the environment, health, and human services. Fostering greater access to and success in postsecondary education for low-income, minority and first-generation college students is the focus of Kresge’s Education grantmaking. In 2010, Kresge awarded more than $23 million in grants to support higher education in the United States and South Africa, with more than one-third benefiting U.S. community colleges.

About the Open Society Foundations

The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. To achieve this mission, the Foundations seek to shape public policies that assure greater fairness in political, legal, and economic systems and safeguard fundamental rights. On a local level, the Open Society Foundations implement a range of initiatives to advance justice, education, public health, and independent media. At the same time, we build alliances across borders and continents on issues such as corruption and freedom of information. The Foundations place a high priority on protecting and improving the lives of people in marginalized communities.


About Jobs for the Future

Jobs for the Future works with our partners to design and drive adoption of education and career pathways leading from college readiness to career advancement for those struggling to succeed in today’s economy.
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