July 1, 2015, marks the day that many of the provisions of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) take effect. This new law has the potential to make a tremendous difference for tens of millions of workers, job seekers and adult students across this country. WIOA’s transformation of our publicly-funded workforce system means that all of us—federal and state partners, governments, non-profits and educational and training institutions, must be pressing for innovations to ensure:
My journey in adult education began in 1986 when I concurrently signed up as an adult literacy volunteer with Literacy Volunteers of America, Lubbock Literacy and Austin Independent School District's Amnesty Program under the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) after I obtained my graduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin). With a longstanding interest in education, cultures, languages and having previously trained and taught ESL, I immediately loved it and I knew I wanted to work in the field of adult education. Like many ESOL instructors, I pieced together my work through full-time and part-time positions for public schools, community-based organizations, institutions of higher education and adult education service providers. After 27 years of working in various administrative capacities, I am honored to join Denton ISD as the Director of Adult Education and Literacy, Grants and Community Relations.
According to the OECD Survey of Adult Skills released
in Oct 2013, 36 million of our fellow Americans
struggle with literacy skills, 48 million struggle with numeracy skills, and an
even larger number struggle with the technology skills needed to solve every
day work-like problems. Leaders at national, state and local levels have talked about these findings for almost two years that it is “time for the U.S. to reskill” and upskill.
Obviously, we need to do what is
necessary to make significant, lasting changes in the skills profile of this great
nation of ours.
Realistically speaking, I know
that our efforts in adult education and literacy alone cannot address the
vastness of the challenge. I also know that the efforts by our partners in
health and human services, institutions of higher education and workforce development help a lot but those
efforts, too, are simply not enough.
We need to seek new and
unlikely partners, and find fresh solutions.
In adult education, we have a lot to learn particularly considering the added challenge of transitioning from Texas Education Agency (TEA) to Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). The President’s call for free community college is our generation’s call to action to lift the skills of a new generation to be ready for the jobs of today and tomorrow. But we know that many youth and adults are not yet ready for college-level academic or technical courses. How do we seize this wave of interest to ensure that the pre-requisite foundation skill needs of our learners are considered in the systems that get established? How do we assemble the partners that we need on our quest?
We have some amazing opportunities right in front of us right now. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) offers us the chance to restructure our systems. It assigns us partners with similar missions serving similar populations. Let’s make sure we capitalize on this opportunity and realize the greatest benefit out of WIOA for our existing and future students.
The vision of the Adult Education and Literacy program is to partner with business, government, community leaders and educators to strive toward a more democratic society by providing a comprehensive instruction and support services to eligible program participants in a learner centered, supportive and collaborative environment to enhance their quality of life leading to life-long learning, civic participation, and personal success.
The Denton ISD Adult Education and Literacy program exists to provide adult learners with quality programs and services to help them acquire and develop literacy skills needed to become self-sufficient by furthering their education, entering job training and obtaining sustainable employment, so that they reach their full potential as family members, productive workers, and responsible citizens.
I am excited to be a part of this journey and invite you to join us. Please do not hesitate to call, email, or just drop by if you have questions, concerns, or ideas. I greatly value your input.
Dr. David Gerabagi