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Adult Education Advocacy: Bringing the Practitioner Voice to Policy Conversations

  ·   By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock,
Adult Education Advocacy: Bringing the Practitioner Voice to Policy Conversations

Making sure that policy conversations are informed by the deep expertise of adult educators in the field is a core element of National Skills Coalition’s work. In addition to bringing practitioners into Washington for federal-level conversations, NSC staff also regularly travel around the country to connect with people who are engaging in advocacy in their local communities and states.

This spring, two NSC staff members joined adult educators at two major conferences to talk about emerging opportunities for policy advocacy, new research findings, and resources for practitioners to connect the dots between local programs and the broader adult education and skills policy conversation.

Chief of Staff Rachel Unruh journeyed to Orlando, Florida, for the Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE) conference. The COABE conference brings together more than 2,000 adult educators from across the United States, including teachers, administrators, researchers, and other stakeholders. Rachel joined a panel of national leaders in adult education to discuss the federal policy and funding landscape for adult education.

Rachel also presented on results of NSC’s recent Foundational Skills in the Service Sector study. Co-presenting along with Rachel were NSC’s research partners at American Institutes of Research: B. Jasmine Park, Emily Pawlowski, and Katherine Landeros.

Among the policy tools that Rachel discussed were NSC’s state policy toolkit on sector partnerships. The toolkit is accompanied by a 50-state scan showing which states have already adopted such policies. 

Meanwhile, NSC Director of Upskilling Policy Amanda Bergson-Shilcock traveled to Salt Lake City for the Mountain Plains Adult Education Association conference. The conference brings together adult educators from across nine states – Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.

Amanda led two workshops:

  • Implementing WIOA: Early Examples of How Adult Educators Are Partnering with the Workforce System, Launching IET, and More
  • Immigrant Integration: Practices and Policies that Can Support Adult English Language Learners (ELLs) in their Career Transitions


Amanda also presented a solo plenary session on Standing Up for Adult Education: Strategies for Policy Advocacy. She encouraged educators to use NSC’s resources in their advocacy with business leaders, policymakers, and others. 

Among the resources she highlighted are NSC’s two new 2-page fact sheets, which draw on findings from the Foundational Skills in the Service Sector report. One fact sheet, The Business Case for Upskilling, includes a case study of how one hotel benefitted from partnering to provide Vocational English classes to its housekeeping staff. 

Posted In: Adult Basic Education