Adult education centers offer a lifeline to adults who want to expand opportunities available to them. In every county across Kentucky, adult education centers offer a number of free services such as academic instruction, GED preparation, skills training and more. By reaching adults who are underemployed, unemployed or not currently in the labor market, the centers also are key partners in developing a strong workforce.
In Kentucky, there are nearly 376,000 adults ages 18-64 without a high school credential. In other words, 15 percent of the working-age population could, with basic training, achieve more gainful employment.
There are a number of statistics that prove the value of adult education. A high school dropout will earn $9,300 less per year than someone who has a high school diploma or GED. They are more likely to be unemployed, three times as likely to be in poverty and eight times as likely to be incarcerated. The more education, skills and opportunities people have, the more motivated they will be to seek employment or additional education.
“By 2020, 63 percent of all Kentucky jobs and 65 percent of U.S. jobs will require some postsecondary education,” said Reecie Stagnolia, vice president for Kentucky Adult Education (KYAE), Council on Postsecondary Education. “In our local programs, adult education students are being prepared not only for the GED test, but also for what lies beyond, whether it be a credential, certificate or diploma.”
The LaRue County Adult Education Center, for example, is a valuable resource for those with the determination and willingness to work toward something more. We use a number of teaching strategies to help adult learners meet academic standards, pursue new employment or continue their education. Our center exceeded goals set for enrollment and student academic gains for the 2014-2015 academic year, thus topping the Top 25 KYAE Programs ranking.
The LaRue County Adult Education Center also offers skills preparation and testing for the National Career Readiness Certificate. This certification provides a nationally recognized credential that job seekers can leverage when applying for employment. Employers often give preference to job candidates who have earned an NCRC because it ensures that they have essential workplace skills.
Kentucky Adult Education programs have embedded workplace skills in academic instruction and increased the emphasis on the NCRC, Stagnolia said.
“Additionally, KYAE is a partner in Accelerating Opportunity Kentucky (AOKY) with the Kentucky Community & Technical College System and the Department for Workforce Investment,” he said.
AOKY is designed to encourage student retention and achievement of stackable credentials, leading to placement in high-demand, family-sustaining-wage jobs and/or continuation of college in a related field. The hallmark of the program is the acceleration of students’ abilities to obtain foundational and technical skills simultaneously rather than via a typical, sequential model of skill building, Stagnolia said.
Adult education is fundamental to improving and expanding Kentucky’s pool of educated workers. The more highly skilled and educated people in the workforce, the more opportunities are created. Adult education centers also are vital to employers because they provide workers with documented skill sets, which results in better hiring decisions, less turnover and more time for job-specific training.
“We are committed to helping Kentucky adults build strong educational foundations,” Stagnolia said. “The more people we can reach, the more our communities will prosper.”
Connie Goff is director of adult and community education for LaRue County Schools.