Transforming workforce training opportunities with pre-apprenticeships

Transforming workforce training opportunities with pre-apprenticeships

Rethink Adult Ed Challenge announces winners

America’s need for more skilled workers is persistent and growing, but accessing training and work opportunities isn’t always easy. Making critical investments in equitable, accessible adult education can help adult learners connect with high-potential jobs that offer economic mobility.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education announced the grand-prize winner and the four runners-up in the Rethink Adult Ed Challenge, a $750,000 competition to advance pre-apprenticeships. Over 10 months, the Department helped nearly 100 adult education providers create high-quality designs for programs that better prepare learners for apprenticeships — and will soon support more providers in developing their own programs through a virtual workshop and new self-paced online learning course.

The challenge, designed and produced by Luminary Labs, launched in September 2020 to address equity and access barriers and drive greater and more diverse participation in apprenticeships and the broader workforce. Pre-apprenticeships equip adult learners with the fundamental skills they need to succeed — opening up critical pathways into rewarding careers. During the Stage 2 virtual accelerator, 95 finalists in the national challenge received access to subject matter experts and a range of digital resources to help them refine their program designs.

The challenge judging panel — which brought together experts in adult education, workforce development, and social services — selected the five winning designs out of 85 submissions from 31 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam. The winners’ programs span a range of industries, from construction and manufacturing to marine transportation and healthcare. While apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships are often associated with specific roles or industries, the finalists’ designs show that high-quality work-based learning opportunities can create pathways to many types of careers, for many different types of learners.

“The Rethink Adult Ed Challenge proved the demand for training opportunities that are responsive to the evolving needs of American businesses — and our adult learners,” said Dr. Miguel Cardona, Secretary of Education. “We are thrilled to recognize the high potential of these diverse programs and look forward to seeing their learners thrive in future careers.”

The grand-prize winner will receive $250,000:

  • Northampton Community College (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania). A manufacturing pre-apprenticeship to help participants build academic, digital, and workplace skills. Through the program, Northampton Community College aims to develop pathways into industrial maintenance careers while supporting expansion of the region’s second-largest employment sector.

The first runner-up will receive $200,000:

  • Guam Community College (Mangilao, Guam). A marine transportation pre-apprenticeship to help participants build shipyard and ship repair skills. Through the program, Guam Community College aims to develop direct pathways into ship repair apprenticeships while addressing high labor demand at local commercial shipyards and naval stations.

Three runners-up will each receive $100,000:

  • Florence County Adult Education (Florence, South Carolina). A healthcare pre-apprenticeship to help participants build career readiness, literacy, and numeracy skills and achieve certified nurse assistant-related certifications. Through the program, Florence County Adult Education aims to develop pathways into a range of healthcare careers while increasing the quality and quantity of applicants in local apprenticeships and the larger workforce labor pool.
  • Mt. Hood Community College (Portland, Oregon). A construction pre-apprenticeship to help English language learners build academic, language, and workplace skills. Through the program, Mt. Hood Community College aims to provide career pathways to immigrants, refugees, and adults learning English while meeting local industry employment surges.
  • Mt. San Antonio College (Walnut, California). A healthcare pre-apprenticeship to help participants build math, English, and foundational theory skills while developing hands-on clinical experience. Through the program, Mt. San Antonio College aims to develop pathways into apprenticeships and careers while addressing high local demand for both training opportunities and healthcare professionals.

To help more adult education providers develop and deliver pre-apprenticeship programs, the Department will host a virtual workshop on September 23 during National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week. The workshop will share learnings from the challenge and preview the Department’s “Creating Adult Pre-Apprenticeships” course — accessible to providers across the United States.