December 13, 2011

Award Will Support Efforts to Provide Adults With Skills Needed for Today’s Jobs

(TOPEKA) – Helping adults in Kansas earn the credentials and skills they need to get and succeed in family-sustaining jobs is a key to fueling the economy and boosting employment. Jobs for the Future (JFF) has announced that the Kansas Board of Regents, in partnership with the Kansas Department of Commerce, has been awarded a $1.6 million grant to support efforts to ensure more workers have the skills they need through innovative adult education that provides a valuable credential. The three-year grants are part of Accelerating Opportunity: A Breaking Through Initiative, supported by a strategic partnership of five of the nation’s leading philanthropies.

Nationally, 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, only 3% actually earn a postsecondary credential, with many leaving after only a semester or two. By 2018, 64 percent of all Kansas jobs will require workers with some form of postsecondary credentials. The trend of more jobs requiring postsecondary credentials, combined with the large number of adults without credentials, exacerbates the current difficulty employers report in finding qualified workers who can fill skilled positions.

“In Kansas more than 900,000 working-age adults lack a meaningful postsecondary credential that would enable them to find employment in high-demand occupations like healthcare and advanced manufacturing,” said Andy Tompkins, President and CEO of the Kansas Board of Regents. “The AO-K initiative enables us to partner with our community and technical colleges and provide vital education and training that can change lives and respond to Kansas business needs by providing the highly-skilled workforce necessary to promote and sustain economic growth.”

Accelerating Opportunity seeks to change the way adult basic education is delivered by putting adult students on track to earn a postsecondary credential so they can seize the opportunity to earn family-sustaining wages. 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, Jobs for the Future (JFF) has engaged the National Council on Workforce Education, National College Transition Network and the Washington State Board of Community & Technical Colleges as partners.

"In order to ensure that more workers have the skills they need for today’s good jobs, a change is needed in the way adult basic education is structured and delivered at the state and institutional levels in this country," says JFF President and CEO Marlene B. Seltzer. "With the support of our funders, partners and participating states, we will focus on redesigning these programs to significantly increase the number of adults obtaining credentials that lead to family-sustaining jobs and long-lasting career opportunities."

Kansas was one of eleven states previously awarded a $200,000 design grant in August to support efforts to redesign adult basic education and postsecondary programs. After the design stage, the Kansas Board of Regents was eligible to compete for the implementation grant. 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 in Kansas and around the country to ensure that adult education programs lead to postsecondary credentials and good jobs.

The Board of Regents will partner with nine community and technical colleges during the three-year implementation grant. The college partners are: Butler Community College, Dodge City Community College, Garden City Community College, Hutchinson Community College, Kansas City Kansas Community College, Neosho County Community College, Seward County Community College, Washburn Institute of Technology and Wichita Area Technical College.

“I am delighted that the Kansas Board of Regents has been recognized as a leader in promoting educational opportunities that can help Kansas citizens create a better future for themselves and their families,” said Pat George, Secretary of the Kansas Department of Commerce. “Our public community and technical colleges have a vital role to play to ensure that Kansas has the highly skilled workforce businesses need to move the Kansas economy forward.”

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

“Accelerating Opportunity is expanding the professional horizons of Americans across the country – regardless of age or background – by helping them earn credentials and learn skills that have real value to employers,” says Maria Flynn, JFF vice president, Building Economic Opportunity. “Accelerating Opportunity meets workers where they are regardless of skill level or language proficiency, preparing them for today’s labor market by helping to develop foundational skills that create better opportunities for employment.”

Accelerating Opportunity: A Breaking Through Initiative is a multi-state effort managed by Jobs for the Future that promotes improved academic access and economic opportunity for low-skilled adults. This effort seeks to reform adult basic education and postsecondary systems by integrating basic skills with occupational training and adequate institutional support for adult learners, ensuring they receive the postsecondary credentials needed to succeed in high-skilled jobs and break the cycle of poverty in their communities. Accelerating Opportunity is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations. For more information, visit


About the Kansas Board of Regents:
The nine-member Kansas Board of Regents, founded in 1925 and established in the Kansas Constitution, is the governing board of the six state universities and the statewide coordinating board for the state’s 32 public higher education institutions (six state universities, one municipal university, 19 community colleges, and six technical colleges). In addition, the Board administers the state’s student financial aid, adult education, GED, career and technical education programs, and the state university retirement plans. The Board also approves private proprietary schools and out-of-state institutions to operate in Kansas, and administers the Kan-ed network, a statewide network that provides broadband Internet access and distance learning capabilities for schools, hospitals, and libraries.

For more information, contact Mary Jane Stankiewicz at (785) 296-3421 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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