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CAEL Newsletters

Spring 2021 Newsletter

CAEL Welcomes New President

Buford high res Pgh-1On April 12, CAEL welcomed Earl Buford as its new president. Earl brings a wealth of experience leading diverse partnerships that support inclusive economic growth. He’s led workforce development strategies and coordinated education and training programs in multiple regions and industries, and his work includes a 2014 appointment to serve on then-Vice President Joe Biden’s Advisory Taskforce on Workforce Development. Most recently, Earl was CEO of Partner4Work, the leader of the public workforce system for Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. Prior to that, he served as president and CEO of Employ Milwaukee, where he was nationally recognized for the implementation and integration of a sector-based approach to workforce development. He also served as the longtime leader of Milwaukee-based WRTP/Big-Step, one of the first intermediaries in the country, which focused on building diverse workforces in manufacturing, construction, and emerging sectors. Earl succeeds Alex Morrison, senior vice president of strategic partnerships at Strada Education Network, who had been serving as interim president of CAEL.

Connected Pathways: It’s All About the Partnerships

As announced in January, CAEL is leading a partnership to develop an interactive career exploration app that will help students chart their future in an increasingly complex world of learning and work. In a recent video, CAEL and project partner Vantage Point Consulting share the timeline and their perspectives on the initiative, which is fully funded by a $4.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. You view the video on CAEL’s YouTube channel

Another CAEL Partnership Is Working to Broaden the Benefits of Internships

CAEL is working with the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership on creating guidance for broadening the traditional focus of internships to include adult learners. CAEL's legacy of advocacy in work-based learning is combining with the expertise of diverse internship practitioners to inform the Flexible Learning Internship Playbook. Read more at Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, where Claire Linnemeier, director of consulting projects at CAEL, details the process. 

Prior Learning Assessment for a New Era: Report Forecasts Changes in the Way Colleges and Universities Use PLA

CAEL institutional member Capella University has released a report that describes best practices for institutions looking to improve student outcomes through recognition of prior learning. The report, Unlocking the [Full] Potential of PLA,” cites findings from the The PLA Boost, the recent CAEL-WICHE study, which confirms that PLA credit significantly boosts completion rates for adult students. Read more in the Capella University press release and in the full report.

Registration Is Now Open For the CAEL 2021 Conference

The 2021 CAEL Conference is scheduled for November 17-19 at the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego. We are very excited to bring our community together again, and it’s a great opportunity for you to meet CAEL’s new president, Earl Buford, in person! Registration is now open, and CAEL members can secure our lowest rate in years, only $450, by registering early (be among the first 100 to register by June 30). CAEL conference attendees can use this dedicated link for hotel reservations (also included in your registration information from CAEL). For those who prefer to attend virtually, CAEL is providing access to both live sessions and numerous recorded sessions with the ability to view content “on demand.” 

Participants in Inaugural Inclusive Development Network Report Resounding Success

In a follow-up engagement with CAEL’s Inclusive Development Network’s (IDN) first cohort, participants confirmed the IDN’s impact, highlighting the following success indicators:

  • Each IDN community has developed comprehensive action plans for new workforce development initiatives, has deployed at least one of its targeted initiatives into full implementation, and has begun to track project effectiveness and impact. 
  • The communities’ planned postsecondary attainment efforts have focused on supporting individual workers’ access to good jobs as well as driving inclusive economic growth.
  • Communities have continued to implement their goals - even in the midst of a massive economic crisis - and are building greater workforce alignment and inclusive growth, addressing local challenges and working to remove barriers to success.

Perhaps the most satisfying metric is that more than 80 percent of participants report that they’d formed strong partnerships through their IDN collaboration, which in turn are leading to larger and tighter partnerships among their stakeholders. A recent blog post has more detail about the recently concluded IDN cohort.

Inspiring Share-Out Activity Caps Culminating LASS Convening

Also concluding on a high note is the inaugural cohort of CAEL’s Latino Adult Student Success (LASS) academy. The three-year partnership between CAEL and Excelencia in Education, which opened with an Adult Learner 360 survey, has helped the 15 participating Hispanic Serving or Emerging Hispanic Serving Institutions identify opportunities to better serve their Latino adult learners. Earlier this month, the cohort held the final in a series of three annual convenings. With the grant period formally concluding at the end of this month, the session focused on impact and next steps for the institutions.

The first convening, held in February 2019, focused on setting the stage for the importance of Latino adults in postsecondary education and the cohort institutions’ use of Adult Learner 360 data to form action plans to better serve that population. In February 2020, the cohort met for its second annual convening. The focus then was on implementation and refinement of efforts. And this month’s concluding convening featured highlights of some of the cohort's efforts, including a review of the ample data collected over the grant. Keynote speaker Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch delivered a heartfelt and motivating address encouraging participants to consider the who and the why in serving Latinos.

The convening also offered an opportunity for the institutions to continue their mutual support through an informative share-out activity. Each institution presented a reflection on their grant work throughout the past three years. The share-out activity covered:

  • What they chose to do as a part of the grant.
  • What they accomplished.
  • What their challenges were/are.
  • Lessons they learned.
  • Impact they have made.
  • Next steps for sustainable Latino adult learner support post-grant.

Below are just some of the accomplishments reported by the institutions as a result of their work in the academy:

  • Increasing the number of employer partners by nearly 90 percent.
  • Increasing the number of courses eligible for credit for prior learning.
  • Developing a centralized position to support HSI work.
  • Hiring bilingual student ambassadors.
  • Developing targeted outreach to returning Latino adult learners.
  • Leveraging data to monitor progress toward degree completion.
  • Peer-to-peer support for supplemental instruction.
  • Targeted marketing and communications efforts bolstered by geo-fenced data.
  • Implementation of guided pathways and a work-based experiences team.
  • Increasing average credits completed in academic years by Latino adult learners by nearly 50 percent.
  • Development of marketing plans in support of credit for prior learning programs.
  • Increased availability of courses for adult Latinos.
  • Creating new data-collection systems.
  • Improved training of advisors in serving adult learners.
  • Faculty workshops devoted to adult learner allyship.
  • Expedited and expanded opportunities in credit for prior learning.

The convening concluded with activities that helped the institutions identify best practices across the academy cohort, better tell their stories of impact, and document specific next steps for how they will continue to support Latino adults after the grant has ended and remain connected to CAEL and Excelencia in Education.

This cohort of the LASS Academy was made possible through the generous support of The Kresge Foundation, Ascendium Education Group, and The Greater Texas Foundation.

Modernizing and Investing in Workforce Development 

In March, then-incoming CAEL President Earl Buford coauthored a paper with Larry Good, president and CEO of Corporation for a Skilled Workforce, a policy and systems change nonprofit organization that “catalyzes nationwide transformative change across workforce, education, economic, and community development through research and action.” The paper, Modernizing and Investing in Workforce Development, is part of a series from the Better Employment and Training Strategies (BETS) coalition, a volunteer group of more than 40 leaders from policy and practice organizations. 

For Higher Education, Demography is Destiny. The Time to Support Adult Learners is Now.

The CAEL community has long recognized serving adult learners as an ethical imperative with implications for social mobility and equity. But demographic trends are also adding to the pragmatic urgency of welcoming adult learners. In a recent op ed for Higher Ed Dive, CAEL vice president for impact Becky Klein-Collins discusses these trends and how effectively serving adult learners may require innovative methods. Read more at Higher Ed Dive.

Stackable Credentials: Living Links Between Learning and Work

At the League for Innovation in the Community College Virtual Innovations Conference in March, CAEL Senior Vice President of Engagement Christine Carpenter joined two NACTEL partners, Pace University and AT&T, to talk about how stackable credentials and employer-provided education benefits are meeting learners where they are, fulfilling challenging workforce needs, and even boosting employee loyalty and productivity. You can read a summary here.

‘Learning Literacy’ and the Currency of a Knowledge-Based Economy

In a new, in-depth article for "Chief Learning Officer," CAEL's Elizabeth Hibner argues the value of education benefits and shares some real-world ROI findings, including a McDonald's Corporation success story. Read more at Chief Learning Officer.

Alliance for Veterans in Higher Education (AVHE): Members from across higher education, veteran service organizations, and state agencies are collaborating to identify and remove barriers that rural veterans and military-connected students face when pursuing postsecondary education in central and southern Illinois.

  • Three focus group sessions were held where members from each sector presented on current work, challenges due to COVID-19, and positioning for post-COVID-19 work.
  • A symposium will be held in late May where the group will learn more about challenges transitioning service members face and changes to the Joint Services Transcript and ACE Military Guide. They also will explore the possibility of developing an online resource where military-connected students can go to source the abundance of scholarship opportunities available to them through institutions and VSOs across Illinois.

Veterans Higher Education Affinity Group (VHEAG): Veteran-serving faculty and staff from Chicagoland institutions are working together to identify and remove barriers that Chicagoland veterans and military-connected students face when pursuing postsecondary education.

Jan. 27: The VHEAG received training from ACE on upcoming changes to the Joint Services Transcript & ACE Military Guide and a refresher briefing on basic articulation of military credit.

Feb. 24: The VHEAG heard  a presentation from retired Marine Corps Col. Jerry Smith, director of the Office of Veterans Services, and Ms. Monteigne Long, assistant director for veterans services for the Texas A&M University System (TAMU). Col. Smith and Ms. Long discussed their current work positioning TAMU's VSRCs for post-COVID-19 sustainability and growth. Ms. Long also discussed collaborative research recently published by TAMU and Operation College Promise (OCP), which examines the national impact of COVID-19 on student veterans and campus support services. 

May 4: Megan Giedraitis, DePaul University's assistant director of adult, veteran, and commuter student affairs, will speak to the group about DePaul's grant-funded Veteran Peer Advising Program, which is intended to place students with peer advisors, or “coaches,” they can reach out to with any needs or questions they have during their tenure at the institution. The Office of Veterans Affairs piloted the program the first year and has continued to evolve and improve it for the past three years. Today it is a highly successful program that students find great value in during their time at DePaul. Megan will share information about program data collection as well as improvements made as the program has progressed.

Virtual Event Highlights New Research and Action Plan to Support Adult Learners in Higher Education

Between August and October 2020, The Urban Education Research Center (UERC) at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and CAEL, in partnership with KC Scholars, conducted 18 focus groups with faculty, administrators, and adult learners to address two primary research questions: 

  1. How has COVID-19 specifically affected adult learners?
  2. How can higher education institutions address the needs of adult learners during this unique time?

The study, made possible with support from The DeBruce Foundation, included 82 faculty, staff, and administrators, as well as 61 adult learners. The resulting report, “Reaction to Crisis: Adult Higher Education’s Lessons Learned,” was released on March 2, 2021 and details key findings and 13 actionable steps to improve experiences for adult learners. CAEL’s vice president of partnership development, Scott Campbell, Ph.D., and his fellow study leaders presented an overview of their findings and actionable recommendations, which promise to have relevance long after the current crisis subsides. You can download the report and access the replay of the event here.

Instructor-Led CAEL Training Launches

CAEL’s popular asynchronous professional development workshops are back! Our spring section of Assessing Prior Learning, Career and Education Advising, and From the Ground Up: Building the Foundations of a PLA Program resumed earlier this month. If you haven’t joined us yet, register for our July 26 or September 27 sections now.

More Professional Development: Member Webinars on Serving Military Students

In May, CAEL will offer its members two opportunities to learn more about how to better serve active-duty military and veterans. On May 6 at 1 p.m., delve into the newly released digital military guide with DANTES experts who will demonstrate the value of this new benefit. On May 20, learn from experts at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs as they advocate for colleges to view student veterans more holistically and explore research on student veteran strengths. Learn more and sign up at CAEL’s website.

An Amazing Start to 2021 Has Allowed Us to Welcome the Following New Members to Our Growing Community:

33 New Institutional/Organizational Members: Avila University, Azusa Pacific University College, Ball State University, City Colleges of Chicago District Office, Cleveland State University, Daley College, Five Towns College, Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University, George Mason University, Harold Washington College, Harry Truman College, Johnson County Community College, Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas State University, Kansas State University- Global Campus, Kansas State University-Olathe, Kean University, Kennedy King College , Lincoln University, Lincoln University, Malcolm X College, Metropolitan Community College, Northeastern State University, Olive Harvey College, Park University, Rockhurst University, Ufini Educational Technologies Inc., University of Cincinnati, University of Kansas-Edwards, University of Missouri-Kansas City, Utah Valley University, Western Governors University, Wilbur Wright College

Individuals from the following 21 institutions/organizations:

American College of Education, American InterContinental University, BeWell Consulting & Coaching, Eastern Oregon University, El Paso Community College, Florida International University, Keiser University, Lenoir-Rhyne University, Lock Haven University, Meredith College, Metro State U of Denver, National Lewis University, Saint Joseph's University, Seidman College of Business, St. Mary's University, Success, Pathways Alliance, The Grow Group Inc., Thirdmill Seminary, University of Louisville, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, University of the Free State

For a list of CAEL affiliate and postsecondary institution and system members, please visit our website: https://www.cael.org/membership/our-members.

Accessing Your CAEL Member Benefits: Join Us For an Interactive Webinar and Use Your Benefits Immediately!

Are you new to CAEL? Or do you want to understand all your CAEL benefits so you can access them immediately? Please join us for a Member Benefits Webinar soon! The CAEL Engagement Team will host up to six Member Benefits Webinars in 2021 to help you navigate your membership benefits and get you started quickly. We will highlight:

  • Your entire suite of members benefits and how to access them     
  • Upcoming events and how to register     
  • Exciting announcements and updates
  • How to get involved in CAEL
  • Your questions and suggestions

Look for an invitation in your email, or feel free to contact us at membershipservices@cael.org to receive details for an upcoming webinar. We look forward to “seeing” you there!

New CAEL Member Benefit: Annual Labor Market Report 

We are happy to announce the newest CAEL member benefit: the Annual Labor Market Report! During the seventh month of membership, CAEL’s U.S. institutional members are eligible to receive a customized report showing the job opportunities and in-demand skills in specific geographic areas. The report is produced in collaboration with CAEL’s affiliate organization, Emsi. It provides trusted data for institutional members to make informed decisions, such as education and experience breakdowns for job postings, the top companies that are hiring, the most common occupations, and so much more. The data in this report are based on current information from job postings in the cities, counties, or states selected over the past three months. We encourage members to share this customized report with colleagues involved in the following departments:

  • Workforce development
  • Career/employment services
  • Continuing education
  • Adult/community education
  • Community/employer engagement

In addition, CAEL designed a FREE microcourse for members regarding the use of market data: Improving Programs with Labor Market Data. To access this microcourse, log into CAEL’s LMS, CAEL Training. If you need your login credentials, complete this form. Feel free to contact the engagement team at: membershipservices@cael.org for questions about this new benefit.

Signed, Sealed, and Delivered: Another New CAEL Member Benefit Coming Soon

We are excited to announce a new CAEL benefit for members only: the CAEL Seal Program! As a CAEL member, you will soon be able to access a CAEL Seal that recognizes you and/or your institution or organization as a member of the CAEL community - and expresses your commitment to serving your adult learners. This Proud Member of CAEL Seal will instantly broadcast your dedication and advocacy for adult learners to your network of colleagues, students, friends, and other valued stakeholders. Use the CAEL Seal on your website, in your promotional materials, and on your social media profiles, and let your commitment to adult learners be seen! Look for this exciting new benefit in May.

CAEL’s Industry-Education Initiative, EPCE, Holds Semiannual Meeting

CAEL’s industry initiative, the Energy Providers Coalition for Education (EPCE), held its virtual Semi-Annual Coalition meeting on April 14-15, 2021. More than 50 of the coalition’s employer members and higher education partners came together to learn relevant ideas and practices to support developing, educating, and training the energy industry’s workforce.  

  • EPCE’s education partners Bismarck State College (BSC), Excelsior College and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) showcased education programs aligned to employer training needs. 
  • Energy industry representatives shared relevant information impacting adult learners:  Kristy Hartman, Director of the Energy Program at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), shared an overview of current energy related legislation; Vicki Vasques, Owner of Tribal Tech, LLC and Cowan & Associates and Angela Heck, Director of Training & Development at Day & Zimmermann, discussed diversity and inclusion; and Gary Pfann, Director, Executive and Staff Education of the National Rural Electric Co-op Association (NRECA) and EPCE Governance Committee member, led a panel discussion on the workforce needs from the intersection of energy and telecommunications. 

CAEL Employee Elected to Springfield, Mo. City Council

HeatherHeadshots-3-1Congratulations to Heather Hardinger, director of consulting, who recently won a seat on Springfield, Missouri’s city council! Prior to joining CAEL’s workforce and economic development team, in 2020, Heather specialized in implementing workforce development and talent attraction strategy, advocacy for the development of affordable workforce housing, and served as a community advisor on equity, diversity, and inclusive policies for an economic development agency. 

Recent CAEL Appearances     



CAEL Involvement


Chronicle of Philanthropy “Grants for Advancing Racial Equity” webinar

Carol Erickson, senior director, foundation partnerships


ACE convening: “Demystifying Student Success: Building Credit for Prior Learning” (with Palomar Community College)

Becky Klein-Collins, vice president, impact


Demonstrating, Informing and Inspiring the Talent Continuum through Project Wellspring,” IMS Global conference

Angie Lucas, director of engagement; director of Energy Providers' Coalition for Education (EPCE) 


National Webinar:  Reaction to Crisis: Adult Higher Education’s Lessons Learned with the DeBruce Foundation and KC Scholars

Scott A. Campbell, Ph.D, vice president, partnership development


Innovations Conference workshop: “Meeting the Demands of Adult Learners and Employers with Stackable Credentials.”

Christine Carpenter, senior vice president, engagement


FIU Adult Learner Summit

Becky Klein-Collins, vice president, impact


“Prior Learning Assessments and Crosswalks as a Tool for Pandemic Recovery,” Webinar Panel

Beth Doyle, Ed.D., senior vice president, client success and operations


National webinar: Policy update: What new legislation means for you, your work and adult learners with Emily Bouck West, Higher Learning Advocates, and Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield, National Skills Coalition 

Becky Klein-Collins, vice president, impact


“Future Learning: Are Stackable Credentials the Future of Education?” at Catalyzing Change from Curriculum to Career conference.

Delaware Sustainable Chemistry Alliance (DESCA) and  Forum to Advance Minorities in Engineering –(FAME, Inc.). 

With Melinda Burn, vice president marketing, Solecta Membranes, and Amy Schulz, dean of career, continuing and technical Education, Sierra College

Angie Lucas, director of engagement; director of Energy Providers' Coalition for Education (EPCE)


Webinar for members and Learning Counts members: “What's next after Learning Counts?”

Christine Carpenter, senior vice president, engagement;

Jeannie McCarron, senior director, member engagement;

Kristen Himmerick, senior director, solutions;

Patricia Norman, coordinator, member engagement


Member Only webinar: Using Behavioral Science to Improve Postsecondary Education, with Ideas42

Elizabeth Warner, CMP, senior director, event operations


DEAC Webinar: “Collaborating for Student Success: Is your institution adult ready?”

Jeannie McCarron, senior director, member engagement; Barry Nickerson, director, consulting 


Commission on the Extended University PACE - California State University Chancellor's Office

Becky Klein-Collins, vice president, impact

Recent Blog Posts and Other Articles With CAEL

Powering Purpose (A national report from Strada Education Network highlighting the critical role community colleges play in forging paths to economic mobility for millions of Americans).

What other states can learn from Michigan about serving adult students

Taking the Long View: Postsecondary Institutions and the 60-Year Curriculum

High-Speed On-Ramp: South Seattle College’s MOET Program Links Classroom and Career

‘Learning literacy’ and the currency of a knowledge-based economy

As colleges stare down declining demographics, now is the time to support adult learners

The Present Environment of Not-So-Online Learning

Stackable Credentials: Living Links Between Learning and Work

For the Record, An AACRAO Podcast (Featuring Becky Klein-Collins)

Two PLA Experts Share Their Perspectives on Prior Learning: Findings From ‘The PLA Boost’

4 recommendations to improve adult learners’ experiences

Prior Learning Assessment is Available, but Students are Not Using It

Collins, colleagues draft practice report about COVID’s impact on adult learners and higher education

Now Is the Time to Better Support Adult Learners in Higher Education

6 Steps to Move Prior Learning Assessment Forward