By Jennifer Freeman, Program Director, JFF
What is Integrated Education and Training and how does it help adult education students access college? Leaders of the Retraining the Gulf Coast through Information Technology Pathways (GCIT), a Round 2 Trade Adjustments Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program (TAACCCT) consortium of nine colleges from Mississippi and Louisiana, answered these questions and more for a packed room of adult education providers at the National College Transition Network conference held in Cambridge, Massachusetts in early November. As described, the GCIT programs combined foundational literacy and math instruction with college-level technical instruction leading to several Information Technology industry certifications. When enrolled, all of GCIT’s participants were adult education students who lacked a high school diploma. Both Mississippi and Louisiana have scaled the model they built under TAACCCT across the community colleges of both states.

Since WIOA was passed in 2014, states have been required to offer Integrated Education and Training (IET) as part of Title II adult education services. WIOA defines IET as programs offering adult education and literacy activities, workforce preparation activities, and workforce training “concurrently and contextually.” TAACCCT funds helped to expand the capacity for the development of IET programs by supporting the development of program models that contextualized and integrated foundational skill development with technical training. In grantee reports from rounds 1 – 3, 74 grantees reported that they had developed such programs.

Alison Bordelon, Project Director at the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, explained that for all community colleges across the state, anyone testing below college-level can enroll in college-level courses, where they build their foundational math and reading skills in the context of the technical training they are receiving.

Many adult education providers in the audience are located on college campuses, but their students and programs are not integrated with other programs of the college, and the adult education students do not have access to other college programs, resources or facilities. They wondered how the college administrators and faculty of the GCIT came to embrace a model that fully integrates the adult education students into the programs of the college, and treats them as “college students” in all respects. Alison explained that interest grew as college staff and faculty saw the successful retention and completion of the ABE students in GCIT programs. Low-skilled adults had also become a priority population for the college. With regard to building the curriculum, “it’s all about the learning outcomes” Alison explained, “the ABE and college instructors work together to design an approach that will help all students get to the outcomes.”

Christian Lagarde, former project director for GCIT, shared that Mississippi also adopted the model for all adult basic education students across the state, which they call MI-BEST, based on the Integrated Basic Education Skills and Training (I-BEST) model developed by the Washington State Community and Technical College system.

An essential element of success in IET and I-BEST is student support, noted Sandy Goodman of the National College Transitions Network. Sandy worked with the GCIT consortium to train navigators and plan other student supports. She observed that it’s not enough to have a coach or a navigator for students; colleges must consider how students will access all the supports across a college, from tutoring to the food pantry. She said that while the coach or navigator role is critical, those individuals must connect students to an array of services and develop a system of triage in order to support a growing number of students, as IET and I-BEST programs are scaled to encompass more students and fields of study.

The GCIT is one of several TAACCCT programs that are featured in a new publication on the strategies for adult learners that have been expanded through TAACCCT: Accelerating Pathways to Careers for Adult Learners.