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Adult Education—Facing the Future
Posted by Laura McLoughlin on July 14, 2021 in categoryFacts & Research

After COVID-19 created a year of uncertainty and disruption, Judy Mortrude from World Education wrote “Adult Education—Facing the Future,” which looks at how the adult education field responded to the pandemic and considers what the lasting effects might be. 


Looking ahead ahow we emerge from the pandemic, Mortrude points out the critical role adult education will play in our recovery, and makes the case for policies and funding to help the field build from where we are. 


This is the last part of the Forum section of the current issue of Adult Literacy Education: The International Journal of Literacy, Language, and Numeracy, which was dedicated to how the adult education field weathered COVID-19. 


Read an excerpt from Mortrude’s article:  


The pandemic accelerated and exacerbated economic trends that have been developing for decades. The first such trend describes the changing job market and the need for training and retraining. A second, related trend, is the continued replacement of workers with automation. Prior to the pandemic, discussions about the future of work often mentioned increasing automation and the elimination of many jobs, particularly affecting workers with less education and income who are disproportionately Black, Indigenous, and people of color. COVID-19 has accelerated this phenomenon as workplaces have invested in automation as a means of continuing operation with less human intervention. Early data suggest this will outlast the pandemic (Toland & Huddart, n.d.). Thirdly, recent data reveals that declining employment growth because of COVID-19 is almost exclusively in jobs that require a high school diploma or no diploma at all, meaning adults with the least educational attainment are hit hardest now and into the future (Kolko, 2021).  


Because of all these economic changes, it is essential that adult education play a critical role in building not only occupationally specific skills through integrated education and training but also what are often called personal and workplace success skills (National College Transition Network, n.d.). Concentration on these types of skills – employability skills, academic, and career skills – is not new for adult education, but it is time to update them with thinking afresh about the types of human skills needed in our accelerating artificial intelligence and machine learning economies (Weise, 2021). COVID-19 has taught us all that we will continually need to adapt to changing work environments and hone our abilities to communicate and collaborate. We need an adult education system that values this skill building as much as reading level gains. 


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