ALA Praises Introduction of Workforce Legislation

For Immediate Release
Wed, 12/07/2022


Shawnda Hines

Deputy Director, Communications

Public Policy and Advocacy Office

WASHINGTON – Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Todd Young (R-IN) today introduced bipartisan legislation that will expand economic opportunity and mobility for millions of people by increasing funding for adult education, strengthening coordination across adult education and workforce programs, and providing support for college and career navigators at public libraries and community-based organizations among its provisions.

The bipartisan Adult Education Workforce Opportunity and Reskilling for Knowledge and Success Act (Adult Education WORKS Act) will address workforce challenges by updating the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to strengthen and expand access to adult education services. ALA has worked with Senate offices to ensure that Adult Education WORKS Act will leverage the reach, expertise and resources of America’s public libraries to boost college and career readiness.

ALA President Lessa Kananiʻopua Pelayo-Lozada said, “Library services play a vital role in empowering and strengthening the nation’s workforce. As the job market evolves to meet the needs and demands of a changing economy, libraries are here with resources for jobseekers to gain the skills they need for better paying jobs and new career opportunities. ALA is proud to support the Adult Education WORKS Act.”

Public libraries across the country empower job seekers to access employment services and training, leading to better jobs and improved career pathways. This legislation recognizes that people use libraries to gain digital skills, access new technologies, pursue vocational and educational programs, and start new businesses. Libraries are established centers for learning and advancement and hubs for community connection and referral. Recent research funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) details many of these services through 10 library case studies.

Adult education provides literacy, digital literacy, numeracy, workforce readiness, high school equivalency, English language skills, soft skills, and numerous wraparound services to millions of adult learners nationwide – all essential skills frequently supported by public libraries and community partners. These skills can be the difference between earning a family-sustaining wage and struggling to make ends meet.  Without the opportunities provided through adult education programs, many adults will be left on the sidelines. 

Highlights of Adult Education WORKS Act include:

  • Expand the role of public libraries in the one-stop delivery system for workforce development.
  • Ensure that adult education providers – which may include public librarians – are represented on workforce and other boards and are part of the workforce planning process.
  • Provide support for college and career navigators at public libraries and community-based organizations.
  • Incorporate digital and information literacy into adult education and workforce development programs.
  • Doubling authorized funding for adult education by 2026 to $1.35 billion.
  • Support the professionalization of the adult education field by strengthening state certification policies, encouraging full-time staffing models, and expanding professional development opportunities and career pathways for adult educators.
  • Strengthen coordination and leverage resources between adult education and workforce development programs.
  • Encourage innovation though pilot projects to test new approaches to measuring performance and ensure WIOA performance metrics capture the full range of skills gains supported by adult education programs.
  • Promote the provision of integrated education and training concurrently with other adult education activities and services.

 The ALA and its public library division, the Public Library Association (PLA), will continue their work with the bill’s bipartisan cosponsors and library leaders across the country to advance this vital legislation.