2. Outreach and Goal-Setting
3. Case Management / Coaching
4. Increasing Earnings
5. Building Financial Capability
6. FSS Infrastructure
4. Increasing Earnings
As FSS program coordinators, it is important to assess whether participants need help strengthening their basic skills. Programs often assume that only individuals without a high school diploma and/or with limited English language proficiency have need of basic skills services. In fact, a recent survey of American adults’ skills found that 60 percent of those with low skills had already completed high school.
Also, a high percentage of entering college students are referred to remedial courses, with about half taking at least one remedial course (with an average of 2.6 remedial courses among those who take any). An even larger number are referred to remediation, but many never enroll.
Helping FSS participants access quality basic and adult education can be the first step to helping them achieve a post-secondary credential, but coordinators need to be aware that basic skills services can be a dead end for individuals unless they are matched with efforts to connect them to further education, training, and jobs.
As an FSS practitioner describes in the video, it’s important to start by assessing participants’ educational needs.
FSS © 2017 | U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
There are two groups of low-income adults who could benefit from more help with basic skills:
New approaches to basic skills instruction are needed. Traditional sequences of adult education, English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction, and college remediation (known as developmental education) have high drop-out rates and low success rates for transitioning participants into job training and other post-secondary education. This may be because they take too long and are disconnected from individuals’ specific career goals. These effects are compounded when low-income adults must complete several levels of basic skills courses.
When helping participants access basic skills services try to find programs that (click the arrows to expand the content):
Accelerate progress through basic skills instruction and shorten the overall timeline for underprepared students to complete credentials. This may mean students move through content faster (e.g. two semesters of remediation in one semester) or it may mean students meet for more hours per week (e.g. an adult education class meeting for 15-20 hours a week instead of 4-6 hours).
Contextualize basic skills instruction
Contextualize basic skills instruction to occupational and/or academic gatekeeper courses in a specific career pathway. For example, a math lesson for students studying automotive technology might teach ratios and proportions, using gear ratios to illustrate. Students in a health care pathway might learn to use algebraic formulas to calculate patient dosages or IV flow rates.
Provide opportunities for concurrent enrollment in basic skills and post-secondary education and training. This may involve integrating basic skills instruction into an occupational or academic class or allowing students to enroll in basic skills at the same time as post-secondary classes, or both.
Create structured pathways—such as bridge programs embedded in career pathways—through basic skills and into post-secondary education and training instead of leaving students to find their own way through basic skills, noncredit training, and for-credit occupational and academic classes.
Carreras en Salud is a partnership between a community-based organization and a community college in Chicago that provides basic skills training and follows a Career Pathways approach. It offers individuals a number of different places to start on a health care career pathway depending on their academic skills and English language proficiency.
Research on community colleges suggests that providing the elements below can also help participants begin and complete education (click the arrows to expand the content):
Encouraging students to choose a program of study early on
Research on community college students found that those who entered a program of study in their first year were twice as likely to complete credentials as students who didn’t enter a program until later.
Offering flexible financial aid, especially if coupled with other services, such as enhanced student advising
Flexible aid that can fill in the gaps left by other student aid may be especially important, such as for individuals who are ineligible for federal aid (because of student loan defaults, for example), who are in programs that are ineligible for federal aid (such as noncredit training), who have costs that exceed Pell grants, or who need one time, short-term emergency aid (such as for car repairs or housing security deposits). State or local funding sources should be explored for these students.
Providing financial incentives, if students are aware of them and have the skills or knowledge required to complete the incentivized behavior
Incentives may be most effective when they target behaviors that would otherwise not occur, such as meeting with an advisor regularly, and when they can be used repeatedly over time. Incentives may also be more powerful when delivered immediately after the incentivized behavior occurs and are concretely tied to that behavior. The FSS escrow account could be marketed in this way, especially if some of it is made available on an interim basis while students are in school to help with expenses not covered by regular financial aid.
One important takeaway from the research is that multifaceted approaches that combine several innovations seem to be more effective than any one of them alone.
Some specific steps you can take to help FSS participants are:
While FSS coordinators do not generally provide services directly, some incorporate advice and counseling about employment and education into their case management. Here are some ideas for making that advice as helpful as possible:
To help participants explore new careers, FSS coordinators can get information on the local labor market from career centers and state labor market information websites to help their participants understand which jobs are in demand, offer (or can lead to) family-supporting wages, and what skills, experience, and credentials are needed to qualify for them. For lower-skilled adults, FSS coordinators can find helpful resources, free curricula, and online training on the LINCS (Literacy Information and Communication System) website, such as the Integrating Career Awareness curriculum.
Enhanced Academic and Career Advising
This type of advising helps participants set academic and career goals, make choices about education and training options, progress through and complete programs, and transition successfully to the next education or employment step. Some FSS programs dedicate a FSS coordinator or other FSS staff to act as a career coach or navigator. These staff members typically integrate both academic and career counseling, have relatively low caseloads (typically no more than 60 or fewer active cases at a time), and are proactive in reaching out to participants, and meet frequently, such as weekly, for at least the initial months of program participation.
In this video clip an FSS coordinator describes her role in navigating the career center and advocating on her client’s behalf.
FSS coordinators can also provide the following to help their participants meet their goals:
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