While COVID-19 has heightened the challenges found in workforce development programs, these programs have struggled for years to meet the demands of workers and connect them with living-wage jobs. For example, a 2016 Pew Research survey found that:
- Employment has been rising faster in occupations requiring more preparation
- The majority of American workers say they will need continuous training to keep up with changes in the workplace
- 35 percent of adults in the labor force said they did not currently have the education and training they need to get ahead
This report also reveals that “employment and wages have increased most in occupations that require higher social or analytical skills.” It isn’t just a matter of offering courses in mechanics or computing or health care. For workers to land in jobs that offer a living wage, they need an education that focuses on the whole learner. This means an education that takes into account developing and fine-tuning social-emotional skills; that considers factors in their unique backgrounds that can advance or inhibit their progress; and that figures out ways to lead with strengths and overcome obstacles.
In order to help workers meet the demands of an emerging workforce, we have created the Adult Learner Model. The framework covers the whole learner: background experiences; social and emotional; cognition; and adult literacies. It includes research-based factors of learning and strategies for education practice and edtech product development. While building this model, three themes have emerged:
- Adults need a variety of foundational skills to thrive and survive
- Adults must see the benefit of learning tasks to fully engage
- Engaging in lifelong learning is connected to general well-being
The Learner Variability Navigator’s goal is to use our factors and strategies to supplement job training and college classes designed to help citizens find jobs, become successful in their occupation, and live a fulfilling life.