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CAEL Pathways Blog

TGN@CAEL: a Partnership Built to Scale

Earl Buford and Sallie Glickman

CAEL and The Graduate! Network have many things in common. So many, in fact, we couldn't land on a definitive number. So we'll start with more than 115 million. That's about how many U.S. adults left college without a degree or never went to college at all. There are millions more who do have degrees but need to upskill or reskill to enter or remain on rewarding career pathways. Equitable economic mobility in this country depends on their access to education and training.

For these reasons and more, CAEL and TGN have formed an operational partnership under which CAEL will house TGN@CAEL, redoubling the organizations support for  education and career pathways. CAEL and TGN share a deep commitment to helping adult learners and workers succeed, whether they are just starting out on their education journey or looking to advance in their careers. But what makes this unique partnership so promising is not just how our missions align. It's also how that alignment scales our impact. Coordinating our missions will create new opportunities to integrate postsecondary education, training, employer, and workforce partners into holistic support systems for adult learners and workers. 

The CAEL-TGN partnership leverages the legacy of both organizations. It is building on their pasts to prepare adult workers and learners for the future of work a future in which success will depend on a modernized public workforce system. Over the past several years, CAEL has focused resources in the growing intersections between the education and employment ecosystems. From credit for prior learning to career pathway navigation resources to industry-education partnerships, easing transitions within these spaces helps adult learners and workers succeed. At the same time, TGN was optimizing Bridging The Talent Gap and the other tools within its portfolio to engage employers in support of the much-needed intermediary function within these ecosystems. 

Only an impartial intermediary can transcend the barriers that keep employers, educators, trainers, and workforce developers in the dark even as they strive to illuminate solutions to common challenges. These barriers also limit the vision of individuals trying to navigate complex career pathways. Assets like CAEL's Adult Learner 360 diagnostic tool and TGN's Bridging The Talent Gap translate the lived experience of adult learners and workers into insight that helps unify education and employment experiences.

Consider what elevating lines of sight can do for our workforce system. A compendium of education benefit providers could pinpoint entry-level occupations that are also portals to postsecondary credentials. Practitioners confined to a small number of training programs could transform into clearinghouses for education and employment pathways. The limits of our workforce funding model shouldn't be a limiting factor in the career aspirations of adult learners.

To be sure, being wholly partial to the aspirations of adult learners is what enables CAEL to be an impartial intermediary among those that serve them. CAEL has a long history of helping adult learners get to where they want to be tomorrow -- from credentials to careers -- by meeting them where they are today. That entails embracing their lived experiences, which CAEL does through mechanisms like the aforementioned Adult Learner 360, research, interactive career pathway navigation, and our comprehensive Framework for Creating Adult Learner Leaders for Institutional Effectiveness, a standard that can be applied throughout U.S. postsecondary education institutions. 

TGN brings a new dimension to this aspect of CAEL's work as well. At the heart of TGN's philosophy of adult learner engagement is an approach called appreciative advising. Appreciative advising is well established within higher education. TGN is seeking to broaden its use in the workforce world, and for good reason. TGN and its partner practitioners have used the approach to dramatically improve educational outcomes of underserved adult learners. Despite facing far more obstacles than their peers, when these adult learners engage with TGN practitioners, they are more than four times as likely to reenroll in college and more than 40 percent as likely to graduate. Emphasizing strengths rather than deficits in an atmosphere of dialogue rather than dictation has moved the needle for advancement within entire degree programs. Imagine its potential for workforce training and other shorter-term programs.

Realizing that potential will require connecting employers, educators, trainers, and other practitioners within a unified framework of pathway navigation. Informed choices are the critical ingredient for creating agency for adult learners and workers. Those choices might involve a workforce training program, a traditional degree, a microcredential, or an apprenticeship. They might involve all of them in a stackable sequence of education and career progression. However each individual arrays them, they are foundational to collectively transforming our workforce system from passive support to active empowerment. 

CAELs legacy is rooted in postsecondary education. Grounded in experiential learning, that legacy has always kept the workplace within its field of vision as well. Today, CAELs membership is more diverse than ever. It includes workforce development boards, chambers of commerce, industry alliances, and other stakeholders within the education-employment ecosystem. The TGN partnership will further strengthen this growing community of practice. Our combined membership not only has access to new data sources and methodologies, but new ways of activating them beyond the walls of individual practitioners, where they can cultivate the common ground of a thriving workforce system. To learn more about how our partnership can boost your impact, visit cael.org.

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