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How the Private Sector is Helping Adults Attain a Basic Education

Photo: Courtesy of Michael D. Beckwit

In America, some 36 million adults cannot read, and only about 2 million a year are getting the help they need to become literate and put themselves on a path to a job or a higher wage. Our country ranks below the international average in literacy, math and problem-solving, according to a 2016 analysis by the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies. An estimated 23 million Americans with minimal job skills cannot access skill training, even as American employers had 6.7 million jobs to fill in April, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

What role can the private sector play in supporting K-12 school districts, colleges and nonprofits to scale up the workforce? Models such as McDonald’s English Under the Arches program and Walmart’s GEDWorks program are examples of companies supporting its workforce to provide basic education and job training to adults in their communities. But smaller companies can make great strides as well by partnering with public sector workforce and education organizations.

Dakota Provisions, a processing facility in Huron, South Dakota, partnered with Cornerstones Career Learning Center’s English Language Acquisition program to help its employees improve their language skills and become not just better employees, but more fully integrated community members.

Together, adult education providers and private sector partners must rally around helping the tens of millions of adults in America who cannot read, or who need help to master basic math or earn real-world job skills and industry certifications. With basic education, we can contain social-service spending, rebuild the middle class and grow America’s businesses and economy.

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