Indiana a national leader in adult education

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Indiana a national leader in adult education

INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 20, 2018) --Having a high school credential is the key for many to land higher-paying jobs and advancement opportunities throughout their careers. Indiana’s Adult Education program, which helps Hoosiers earn a high school equivalency, is one of the leading programs in the nation for helping people achieve that status.

 Indiana’s Adult Education program annually ranks among the tops in the nation, in terms of how many Hoosiers it helps earn a high school equivalency.

Nearly half a million working-age Hoosiers lack a high school diploma or equivalency.
In fiscal year 2016-17, for which the most recent statistics are available, nearly 5,000 participants completed the equivalency requirements, placing Indiana third behind only California and Florida. 

And 58 percent of those adult education participants either completed their high school equivalency or achieved a two-grade increase in their functioning level, placing Indiana fourth nationally in that success rate. By comparison, the national average is about 48 percent.

Indiana’s Adult Education program is administered by the Department of Workforce Development and has a presence in each of the state’s 92 counties.

“I think that says a lot, the contribution that our programs are making, particularly because of the governor’s push,” said Jerry Haffner, DWD’s Assistant Director of Adult Education Policy & Programs.

About 85,000 jobs currently are waiting to be filled in Indiana, and that number is expected to grow over the next decade. The challenge: to skill up that population without a high school credential, by putting them on a path toward a high school equivalency and industry certification.  

Despite the recent emphasis on adult education, programs have been offered in Indiana since the 1940s. They received a lift in 1964, when federal and state funding became available to help high-school dropouts earn their General Equivalency Diploma. In 2014, Indiana switched from the traditional GED to the High School Equivalency, or HSE.

Today, 32 entities provide adult education programs at more than 250 locations stretching throughout the state.  Many of the programs are administered through public school corporations, higher education institutions such as Marian and Vincennes universities, and not-for-profits such as Indy Reads. Overall, they annually enroll between 27,000 and 30,000 participants.

The largest segment of Indiana’s population participating in high school equivalency classes is the 25-to-44 age group, Haffner said. 

“Those folks have been out of school and have worked one or multiple jobs,” he said. “They’re coming back because they really need a better job, and a better opportunity.

Though high school equivalency and certification classes are a big part of Indiana’s Adult Education program, an increasing number of adult education participants (20 percent) are seeking to learn the English language.

Most of that population is already working, and the employer is seeking DWD’s assistance to improve communication with their workforce, said Marilyn Pitzulo, Indiana’s Director of Adult Education. 

“We’re seeing this more and more,” she said. “They have a population of, for example, Burmese, and they want us to come and set up a class on site at their location and help teach their employees English.”

Offering adult education classes at the actual workplace is becoming more common, at a time when the state’s low unemployment rate of 3.4 percent is making it harder for employers to find good workers and retain them. So employers are partnering or supporting the courses, to incentivize employees to get their high school equivalency by making it more convenient. 

As part of this push, the General Assembly last session stipulated that DWD must spend 25 percent of its funding on employer-based services. 

Among the early adopters is Cook Group, a leading medical-device maker in Bloomington. At its manufacturing plant, the company hires those without a diploma or equivalent and starts them in a janitorial or dietary position. They work 28 hours per week and spend the remaining 12 hours, unpaid, in a classroom adjacent to the manufacturing plant. 

Once they earn their high school equivalency, they’re placed in higher-paying, production-line jobs. Overall, those with a high school credential can increase their earnings 100 percent over a lifetime compared with those without one. 

“There’s that carrot at the end,” Pitzulo said. “It’s a lot more money, and it’s a full-time position, so they’re motivated to get through the program, because there’s something waiting for them, and it’s not that far down the road.”

National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week runs Sept. 23-29.


About the Indiana Department of Workforce Development
DWD serves the worker and the employer to ensure workplace success. DWD is committed to innovating and invigorating Indiana’s economic future by providing WorkOne Career Centers, Unemployment Insurance, Labor Market Information, Regional Workforce Strategies and Professional Training. Through these services, DWD is able to develop a premier workforce that enables Indiana employers to flourish and entices businesses from outside our state to relocate to Indiana.

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