ProLiteracy is pleased to highlight “A Framework for Capacity Building in Adult and Workforce Education Programming,” by Elizabeth A. Roumell, Texas A&M University, Corina Todoran, Loyola University New Orleans, and Florin D. Salajan, North Dakota State University. This article is featured in the Adult Literacy Education: The International Journal of Literacy, Language, and Numeracy, ProLiteracy’s free online, peer-reviewed research journal created to inform practitioners, researchers, policymakers, and funders about best practices in adult literacy, numeracy, and English language education.
An excerpt of “A Framework for Capacity Building in Adult and Workforce Education Programming” is highlighted below.
Recent Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act legislation in the United States has initiated increasingly complex and multi-tiered systems for program implementation in the adult learning, career training, and workforce development sectors. The paper presents a conceptual framework to assist in understanding capacity building for implementation of adult and workforce education programming. The framework synthesizes a number of policy models, dimensions, and definitions for program delivery and capacity building. A capacity building framework can be applied for conducting policy analysis, needs assessment, and evaluation to underscore how the execution of ambitious policy initiatives and the sustained use of effective practices in communities and institutions, is more likely to be effective if the implementation process begins with a clear understanding of the program model and policies themselves. It also assists in building an active investment in and intentional cultivation of systemic capacity for implementation. Efforts at executing new initiatives without attending to system-level development and scaffolding support structures are prone to ineffective realization and poor program sustainability.
The 2014 Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) legislation carries with it many implications for the trajectory of adult and workforce education (AWE) in the United States (Brown & Holcomb, 2018). The intent of the progressive development of federal legislation and the national Career Pathways (CP) model has been to integrate workforce development and training with adult learning and literacy programs through partnerships and by streamlining policy aims and outcomes. The impact of the WIOA and CP models on state-level workforce education policy, adult learning program implementation, and adult education practice in general cannot be understated (Uvin, 2018). The continued alignment of reporting and assessment requirements has also assigned additional responsibilities to program directors and adult educators requiring new professional skillsets and knowledge for effective program and curriculum implementation. However, such AWE mandates and requirements often have not been matched with the additional resources and professional development necessary for effectively carrying them out (Ladinsky, 2017).
Given the complexity of the AWE policy arena, where multiple federal agencies and state level agencies are involved in developing and implementing educational policy for adult learners, and that the CP model is currently guiding a significant amount of program reform, we argue that a clear capacity building framework is necessary for conducting strategic policy and implementation analyses. A clear framework can be an important tool for both understanding AWE policy, as well as for identifying avenues of action and influence in practice and within the policy arena. We aim to accomplish two things in this article. First, we present a policy analysis framework centered on the notion of capacity building that can be used as a tool for making better sense of policy and its implementation. Second, we argue that a capacity building framework is critical when it comes to implementing adult-centered education programming in our current policy climate and context. We acknowledge that AWE programming varies dramatically from state to state, so our intent in presenting this framework is to offer a point of departure for more intentional policy analysis and to suggest a capacity building approach toward improved delivery of AWE programming.
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