Topeka, Kansas (August 4, 2011) – The Kansas Board of Regents, in partnership with the Kansas Department of Commerce, has been awarded a $200,000 grant as a part of Accelerating Opportunity, a Breaking Through Initiative. Supported by a strategic partnership of five of the nation’s leading philanthropies, Accelerating Opportunity for Kansans (AO-K) will help Kansas transform adult education into successful career pathways leading to postsecondary credentials and economic security for underprepared workers in today’s demanding job market. The initiative is managed nationally by Jobs for the Future (JFF).

The number of adults who lack skills beyond a high school diploma is a national emergency. In Kansas alone over 900,000 working-age adults have no meaningful postsecondary credential. The trend will only continue—by 2018, 64 percent of Kansas jobs will require workers with some form of postsecondary credentials. This exacerbates the current difficulty employers across the state report in finding qualified workers who can fill skilled positions.
“Currently, Kansas has over 32,000 unfilled job openings, many of which require postsecondary credentials for skilled occupations, particularly in health care and advanced manufacturing,” said Andy Tompkins, President and CEO of the Kansas Board of Regents. “Our community and technical colleges play a vital role in promoting economic prosperity for individuals and the state by delivering high-demand technical skills. AO-K will provide the educational opportunities to prepare adults forthese critical jobs.”
Accelerating Opportunity seeks to change the way adult basic education is delivered by putting adult students on track to earn a postsecondary credential so they can seize the opportunity to earn family-sustaining wages and break the intergenerational cycle of poverty. In Kansas, nine community and technical colleges will undertake initiatives to transform the delivery of adult and technical education: Seward County Community College/Area Technical School, Butler Community College, Dodge City Community College, Garden City Community College, Hutchinson Community College, Kansas City Kansas Community College, Neosho County Community College, Washburn Institute of Technology, and Wichita Area Technical College.
Accelerating Opportunity is funded by a strategic collaboration of diverse philanthropies including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations. For program and implementation expertise, JFF has engaged the National Council on Workforce Education, National College Transition Network and the Washington State Board of Community & Technical Colleges as partners.
“We’re aiming at nothing less than radically reshaping the way that adults get education in this country,” says (JFF) President and CEO Marlene B. Seltzer. “We know that American workers can be successful. We’re giving them the tools they need to do this by building the worker-friendly, flexible programs. By providing clear and relevant career paths, more adults will earn the educational credentials that employers are looking for and that are needed to secure a family-sustaining career.”
Design grants were also awarded to Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, and Wisconsin to support efforts to redesign adult basic education and postsecondary programs to integrate basic skills with practical, occupational training. After the design stage, the states will be eligible to compete for implementation grants, of which five states will receive $1.6 million each over three years to implement their plans. The initiative will engage nearly 40 community colleges across the country and impact over 18,000 adult learners. Educational pathways to higher skills, credentials, and employment will be rigorously tested and independently evaluated. This evidence will be provided to philanthropy, labor, employers, adult education planners and other stakeholders in Kansas and around the country to ensure that adult education programs lead to postsecondary credentials and good jobs.
Accelerating Opportunity is informed by JFF’s Breaking Through initiative, which has promoted the support of 41 community colleges in 22 states to improve career pathways and postsecondary education for low-skilled adults.
“Building from our previous work with Breaking Through, states will get the opportunity to identify the barriers to success for their residents and design a plan that will address the unique needs of their workforces and communities,” says Maria Flynn, JFF vice president, Building Economic Opportunity.
“We are thrilled to expand this work and engage every important stakeholder, from community college presidents and trustees to local politicians and policymakers, allowing for redesigned programs that are genuinely sustainable.”
Accelerating Opportunity: A Breaking Through Initiative is a multi-state effort managed by Jobs for the Future that promotes improved academic access and economic opportunity for low-skilled adults. This effort seeks to reform adult basic education and postsecondary systems by integrating basic skills with occupational training and adequate institutional support for adult learners, ensuring they receive the postsecondary credentials needed to succeed in high-skilled jobs and break the cycle of poverty in their communities. Accelerating Opportunity is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations.
For more information, visit www.acceleratingopportunity.org.
About the Kansas Board of Regents:
The nine-member Kansas Board of Regents, founded in 1925 and established in the Kansas Constitution, is the governing board of the six state universities and the statewide coordinating board for the state’s 32 public higher education institutions (six state universities, one municipal university, 19 community colleges, and six technical colleges). In addition, the Board administers the state’s student financial aid, adult education, GED, career and technical education programs, and the state university retirement plans. The Board also approves private proprietary schools and out-of-state institutions to operate in Kansas, and administers the Kan-ed network, a statewide network that provides broadband Internet access and distance learning capabilities for schools, hospitals, and libraries.
For more information, contact Vanessa Lamoreaux at (785) 296-3421 or at vlamoreaux@ksbor.org . Visit the Kansas Board of Regents online at www.kansasregents.org.