Issue #8, April 13, 2010

Each issue of the E-News reports on CAAL's programs and publications, including follow-up activities related to the National Commission on Adult Literacy. Occasional feature articles are offered, along with news about complementary work by other groups.

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In This Issue:
  • Remembering Harold W. McGraw, Jr.
  • New CAAL Policy Brief  -- Local Policy Perspectives on WIA
  • Minnesota's FastTRAC Program
  • Working Poor Families Project on State Economic Development & Adult Education
  • Mapping Green Career Pathways in Michigan
arrowPaul Jurmo, Union Community College -- In 1984, Harold W. McGraw, Jr., was recently retired as CEO of a major multi-national communications company. He had many options for what to do in his retirement. He chose to invest a sizeable amount of personal funds and many years of his time to building an adult literacy education system in his country. He hired a visionary, well-informed, and highly-organized professional from the foundation world (Gail Spangenberg), set up an office in the McGraw-Hill headquarters in Manhattan, and launched a national organization (the Business Council for Effective Literacy) which, for the next ten years, was centrally involved in organizing a national adult literacy initiative and the creation of federal and state legislation. That organization and the infrastructure it helped create nationally remain resources for the field today. By thinking differently and investing his personal wealth (funding, energy, and connections) in a sustained, substantive effort, "HWM" is a model of corporate leadership that the rest of us should learn from and promote.  

arrowDon Block, Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council -- I am so sorry to learn about the death of Harold McGraw. I remember well a visit that he made to Pittsburgh in the 1980's to speak with leading businessmen and women about adult literacy. He truly made a difference in our field, and he will be missed.

arrowLennox McLendon, National Council of State Directors of Adult Education -- Mr. McGraw was devoted to adult learners. His Business Council for Effective Literacy in the 80s and 90s brought together CEO's to discuss adult literacy issues and use their influence to impact policy and legislation. His support for the Council for Advancement of Adult Literacy (CAAL) made it possible for that organization to continue significant contributions to our work. You may remember when the President proposed cutting the adult education budget by two thirds a few years ago. I contacted Gail Spangenberg, CAAL President, for help and as a result Mr. McGraw wrote a personal letter to Senator Specter, Chair of Senate Appropriations, asking that the Senate maintain adult education funding.   
Our sympathy goes out to the McGraw family. Mr. McGraw was a member of the adult education family also, and we celebrate the opportunity to have shared our family values. We mourn his loss. [Reprinted from NCSDAE Washington Views, March 26, 2010]

arrowGail Spangenberg, Council for Advancement of Adult Literacy -- I have been blessed in life by many extraordinary friendships. One was my 30-year friendship with Harold McGraw, Jr. Over the years we conspired in many ways for the good of adult literacy and adult education in America. We worked to develop and advance the National Literacy Act and to build business support for it. We shared confidences about things professional and personal. We even grumbled together occasionally about the shortcomings of aging and old age. 
Harold gave generously, many millions of dollars, to a whole range of organizations in adult education and literacy and to many other worthy causes -- including libraries, for which he had a special fondness. He would often comment that publishing had done so much for him that he felt honor-bound to give back. I smile when I recall speeches he gave in literacy forums over the years -- one phrase he liked to use was "We're all just one step ahead of the sheriff." Through personal dedication and commitment, he managed to move us several steps ahead of the sheriff.
Harold had absolutely no pretensions - he was accessible, unassuming, plain speaking, and as good as his word. He was a true gentleman, but he could be persistent when necessary. He was wise and sensitive, and knew how to turn the power he held to good social and educational advantage -- without ever once claiming or wanting the spotlight for himself. I always marveled at the ease and honesty with which he interacted with everyone, ordinary people as well as those of high station.
I was honored in the 80s and early 90s to function as the operating head of the Business Council for Effective Literacy, which was founded by Harold and his McGraw-Hill colleague, Dan Lacy. I was honored later on when he decided that he wanted to help fund the start-up and subsequent programs of CAAL -- which he did through annual donations and space and services donated by The McGraw-Hill Companies. But the greatest honor of all was to have his trust and friendship.
We are always diminished by the loss of someone we hold dear. I will miss you, my friend, and will not forget you. You had a profound impact on so many people during your lifetime and I'm so lucky to have been one of them. 

On March 26, CAAL published Local Perspectives on WIA Reauthorization, a 21-page Policy Brief written by Forrest Chisman. It presents the main findings of a CAAL invitational Roundtable on WIA and the Adult Education and Economic Growth Act, held in New York City several weeks ago. The brief begins:
On February 18, 2010, the Council for Advancement of Adult Literacy (CAAL) convened a roundtable meeting of 19 leaders of local institutions identified by their peers as providing exemplary "adult education for work" service within a particular community or local market.  The institutions are located in 16 states representing all regions of the United States.  For this Roundtable project, 'adult education for work' was defined as: "the education and training that adults with low basic skills need to become prepared for postsecondary education or training, and for family-sustaining employment and career advancement."
....The February 18 Roundtable gave local leaders a forum in which to discuss -- from their unique perspectives -- changes that should be made in the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) to provide greater support from the federal government for adult-education-for-work programs containing the components they had identified at a CAAL/NCEE meeting [in April 2009.] A related goal was to identify the changes that should be made in WIA to take adult education for work "to scale" -- i.e., to provide this service to a far larger percentage of adults who want and need it. The meeting was timed according to CAAL's best judgment about when Congress was likely to reauthorize WIA. National leadership organizations (including CAAL) have made a variety of proposals for WIA's future form. Although the specifics differ, most believe WIA should be more supportive of adult education for work in some way. Because the invitees have "hands on" experience in making adult education for work an effective service, and because their programs are recognized as exemplary, the perspective of these local leaders on needed federal policy changes deserves special attention, whether or not it reflects the views of national leaders. {...more ...}
  arrowNumerous institutions in Minnesota are collaborating in FastTRAC, a program to qualify low-skilled adults for newly emerging jobs that will pay a family-sustaining wage. FastTRAC (Training, Resources, and Credentialing for Pathways to Sustainable Employment) is aimed at those in the Minnesota workforce, aged 18 to 64, who lack a postsecondary credential at any level (3 out of every 5 adults). About 45% percent of all new jobs in the state over the next decade will require some postsecondary education. The effort brings all key stakeholders to the table and is geared to local labor market contexts. Collaborating entities are the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU); the state ABE office; the State Departments of Employment and Economic Development, Health and Human Services, and Labor and Industry; the Minnesota Office of Higher Education; the Governor's Workforce Development Council; and employers. FastTRAC is designed to be a "sustainable stackable credential employment and training program...." The Governor's Workforce Development Council expects that within three years, each of Minnesota's 25 state colleges will offer FastTRAC programs. Information on the state's demographics and on FastTRAC's specific program components and goals is available at the MnSCU website. [Note: FastTRAC  has been operating in several other states for many years as part of the Joyce Foundation's Shifting Gears Initiative.]

arrowThe Working Poor Families Project just published Strengthening State Economic Development Systems: A Framework for Change, written by John Quinterno of North Strategies, Ltd. This 10-page Policy Brief calls on states to strengthen their state economic development policies and resources by raising the education and skill levels of their current workforce, with emphasis on low-skilled adults. It summarizes existing state practices and presents the case for a skills agenda. The Brief makes six broad recommendations: (1) Articulate an alternative, comprehensive vision of economic development -- a vision rooted in workforce skills and education; (2) Apply stringent accountability and transparency standards to existing development programs; (3) Mandate detailed tracking of workforce outcomes; (4) Incorporate equity principles into state economic development activities; (5) Invest significant economic development resources in targeted industry strategies like sectoral development; and (6) Seize current opportunities to integrate economic and workforce development. 
 arrowThe Apollo Alliance and the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce (CSW) has released a 28-page study of workforce development systems in the construction and manufacturing sectors in Michigan, with recommendations on how they can be optimized to train the workforce for jobs in the coming clean energy economy. Mapping Green Career Pathways: Job Training Opportunities and Infrastructure in Michigan notes that some 55 percent of all new jobs in the state will be in the "emerging renewable energy and efficiency industries," and it examines how existing programs can be integrated and scaled-up to meet the need. Among the policy recommendations the report makes are: (1) Fill in gaps by investing in training opportunities that already exist, rather than by creating new and sometimes unnecessary programs; (2) Break down silos and better integrate environment, economic, and workforce goals at the federal, state, and local levels, so that investments in training are driven by job growth; (3) Gear federal, state, and local funding to interagency collaboration, giving priority to partnerships of service providers, unions, employers, and Workforce Investment Boards; and (4) Invest in career pathway models that place a premium on flexibility, so that workers can move easily in and out of classrooms and jobs. The report lists apprentice and community college programs across the state, and presents case studies of successful green-collar job training programs.     

E-News is made possible by support from the Dollar General Corporation,
the Joyce Foundation, the Wal-Mart Foundation, The McGraw-Hill Companies,
Harold W. McGraw, Jr., and other individual donors.


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In the 10 years since we began, we have published more than three dozen major reports, sponsored over a dozen task force and Roundtable meetings (on ESL, community college transitions, workforce readiness, and other topics), and spearheaded the National Commission on Adult Literacy. We remain dedicated to ensuring that the recommendations in Reach Higher, America translate into legislation, new thinking, and innovative projects across the country. Like all nonprofits we depend solely on grants and individual donations.

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