Helping Adults with Foundational Skill Needs Access Pathways to Economic Mobility

Adult students on laptops

Roughly 30 million adults do not have a high school diploma, and millions more do not have a postsecondary education. Inequity in the traditional education system has led to low literacy levels, disproportionately affecting people of color, first-generation Americans, and English-language learners, preventing them from getting jobs with sustainable wages. They also are often barred from participating in many effective workforce training programs because of their need for deeper academic skill development.

Like justice-involved individuals and opportunity youth, adults with foundational skill needs often lack access and supports required to succeed in effective sectoral and community college workforce training programs. Providing high-quality training and supportive services to these adults is paramount for their successful participation in a thriving workforce and resilient economy.

The Integrated Education and Training Model

Based on a previous evidence review in 2021, the PROMISE Center identified an adult education model called Integrated Education and Training (IET) as the most promising to increase and expedite adult learners’ educational and career advancement. IET combines occupational skills training and foundational or academic skills instruction in a blended curriculum that allows adults to build both sets of skills simultaneously.

While promising, IET programs do not currently serve large numbers of adults, and there is little knowledge about how they are implemented, what practices are most promising, and whether these services are equitably implemented across multiple populations.

Academy of Hope Partnership

As part of our research, PROMISE identified the Academy of Hope, an adult charter school in Washington, D.C., as showing promise in increasing their participants’ income and receipt of occupational credentials. Academy of Hope has IET-like career academy programs in healthcare and information technology.

PROMISE is partnering with Academy of Hope to better understand how they implement this model and research their success in promoting learners’ social-emotional wellbeing, retention, persistence, and eventual workforce entry or enrollment in postsecondary education. We are exploring how services and learner outcomes vary for individuals with different demographic and socioeconomic characteristics to determine how well this program is serving those who are most isolated from opportunity by the harmful effects of segregation by race, place, and class.


The PROMISE Center is directly supported by the AIR Equity Initiative, AIR’s $100+ million five-year investment to advance equity in several important areas: workforce development, education, public safety and policing, and health. The AIR Equity Initiative is committed to investing in the generation and use of high-quality evidence that address the harmful effects of segregation by race and place.