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Resources and Strategies for Delivering Workforce Preparation Activities at a Distance

by Kate Daly Rolander, Ph.D.

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In a shifting and uncertain economic landscape, it is especially important now to emphasize workforce preparation as a core offering of adult education programs that do the important work of meeting learners where they are and supporting their transition to a rapidly changing workforce. As many classes and training programs transition to distance learning models, workforce preparation activities become increasingly important to support learners as they become more independent, self-directed, and confident in distance education, training, and work. Workforce preparation activities, as defined by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), refer to skills and competencies that are not only useful in the workplace, but are also fundamental life skills that include critical thinking, digital skills, self-management, working with others, and understanding information and systems (United States Department of Labor, 2019). Workforce preparation is not solely about integrating occupational content into academic instruction; it involves adapting instructional practice to mirror the expectations of the workplace such as working in groups, solving problems, locating information, and using technology to learn and communicate.

In this article, we’ll address how these skills can be incorporated into adult education offerings by contextualizing academic content and by incorporating instructional strategies that encourage the use of these skills, such as project-based learning, problem-solving activities, and group work. First, we’ll introduce the IET Blueprint, a resource developed by the Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center to support all aspects of integrated education and training (IET) delivery, including workforce preparation activities. Next, we’ll highlight resources for designing instruction to facilitate the development and practice of workforce skills, as well as content that may be used for integrating workforce content into academic instruction. We’ll end by highlighting innovative developments for delivering this kind of skills instruction at a distance.

Virginia’s IET Blueprint

The Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center developed the IET Blueprint to support adult education practitioners in the planning and delivery of workforce preparation activities and in an effort to create a technical assistance one-stop- shop for Virginia’s Integrated Education and Training (IET) instructional planning and delivery. The extensive blueprint website compiles resources and state data for planning and delivering IET programming, including instructional resources for integrating workforce readiness skills into academic instruction. There is also a printable resource that includes instructional resources for all aspects of an IET, technical assistance information, a glossary of terms, and sample responses for the IET Planning Tool. Visit the site to explore the programs in Virginia that are offering IET and IELCE programs and discover the resources and technical assistance available to support all phases of IET programming.

Instructional Strategies for Workforce Preparation

Below is a selection of ready-to-use resources and evidence-based instructional strategies for integrating and contextualizing instruction, two important components of delivering engaging workforce preparation activities in adult education programs.

I-BEST, Washington State Board for Community and Technical College

(I-BEST, Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training.)

I-BEST Team Teaching Models

Team teaching is an integral part of the I-BEST model. It includes joint course planning and an instructional overlap of at least 50 percent of the class time. Overlapping instruction is a core component of the I-BEST model. While effective team teaching techniques and skills are vital to I-BEST success, they are rare among faculty and administrators.

On this page, you’ll find six research-based strategies, evidence-based theory, video samples of effective instruction, and curricula samples. The resources in this section can function as a self-directed learning module or as the basis for group instruction.

I-BEST Co-Teaching Videos

These four videos show demonstrations of six approaches to co-teaching and collaboration. These instructional strategies can be used to support and strengthen collaboration between occupational and academic instructors in the classroom and at a distance for a more aligned and integrated education and training experience.

National College Transition Network (NCTN) Integrating Career Awareness into the ABE &  ESOL Classroom: Curriculum Guide

The Integrating Career Awareness into the ABE & ESOL Classroom curriculum is a ready- to-use, flexible curriculum that prepares adult educators to incorporate career awareness and planning into their instructional and counseling activities. The lessons and handouts can be adapted for a range of students and skill levels.

Employability Skills Framework

Perkins Collaborative Resource Network, U.S. Department of Education

The Employability Skills Framework is a freely available tool that was created to support the development of essential personal and interpersonal skills necessary for individuals to be college and career ready. The Employability Skills Lesson Planning Checklist may be downloaded to support the integration of work- force preparation into academic instruction.

The nine general employability skills are broken down into the checklist so that they are easily incorporated into a lesson.

Illinois Statewide Career Pathways  Contextualized Basic Skills Curriculum and  Resources

Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) Illinois’ Statewide Basic Skills Curriculum com- bines adult education academics with the skills needed in the workplace through contextualized instruction. The instruction includes a combination of identified workplace competencies, career exploration, and basic skills presented in an occupational context.

ICCB Model Curricula

The site features an IELCE Toolkit; healthcare, manufacturing, and logistics curricula; as well as a career pathways curriculum guide for ABE/ASE learners.

Workforce Preparation Content Resources

These resources include content and skills practice to support learners’ continuing development of essential soft skills, digital skills, and job readiness skills.

GCF Learn Free

The lessons on this site can be used with learners to support career planning, to apply for jobs, to balance work and life, to practice basic computer and tablet skills, to learn about online safety, and to complete training needed to succeed in today’s marketplace. The site includes a teacher’s guide.

Career OneStop’s Video Library

The Career OneStop Video Library includes videos and video tutorials about a wide range of aspects of workforce preparation from career exploration to job training to the application process. On this site, learners can learn about fields in high demand; take an assessment; research job options; make a career plan; learn about education and training opportunities; locate certifications; search job listings in their local area or across the country; read tips on networking, résumés, and interviews; and more.

Virginia’s IET Pathways Curriculum

The Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center The Pathways Curriculum introduces essential foundational soft skills that employers expect of all employees, even those at the entry level, regardless of literacy skills. Pathways targets adult learners who read at the second through fourth grade equivalency levels, or who are transitioning into grade equivalent 5. Lessons adhere to the college and career readiness standards, and activities include reading, writing, speaking, listening, numeracy, and digital skills practice in the context of the workplace.  Each unit of this curriculum may take from six to eight weeks to complete, and all documents are freely downloadable for printing. The Pathways curriculum is based on the Department of Labor’s Skills to Pay the Bills soft skills curriculum.

Workforce Preparation at a Distance

In Virginia, adult education providers are quickly adapting to the new virtual realities of delivering integrated education and training and continuing to support learners in strengthening workforce skills. Following is a list of ideas that Virginia adult education programs have enacted this spring to keep IET and work- force preparation activities going at a distance:

For occupational training integration at a distance, programs are:

  • working with training partners to develop training videos and online options for instruction, especially for jobs that include a skills component in their certification, such as C.N.A. and NCCER-related fields;
  • utilizing training partners’ online offerings, such as those available through the Community College Workforce Alliance and other colleges;
  • keeping learners engaged with stackable online credentials, such as OSHA 10 and NCCER Core; and
  • refocusing IET offerings to include postsecondary training and credentials that can be completed online. See this initial list of virtual training offerings.

Workforce preparation is a vital component of adult education’s role in our state’s workforce development system and one that is especially critical now as employers reimagine and restructure how they recruit, train, and upskill their workers. The strategies and resources in this article can be a starting point for more deeply integrating practices and content that support learners’ development and strengthening of essential workforce skills, including flexibility, time management, critical thinking, and greater experience with technology as a vehicle for learning and communicating.

For more information, visit VALRC’s IET Blueprint Workforce Preparation Activities page for updates and additional resources on delivering workforce readiness at a distance. Also see the CTAE’s Professional Development page for guidance and technical assistance on IET programming


United States Department of Labor (2019). Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Attachment III, Key Terms and Definitions. https://wdr.doleta.gov/directives/attach/TEGL/TEGL_19-16_Attachment_III.pdf

Kate Daly RolanderDr. Kate Daly Rolander is the Workforce Education Specialist at the Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center (VALRC). She supports Virginia’s development and implementation of career pathways programs, assists instructors and staff in tailoring instruction for workforce readiness, and coordinates the state’s PluggedInVA programs.

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