An adult education classroom is hardly an end unto itself. Adult students attend high school equivalency and English classes – often on nights or weekends or whatever time they can wrest from work and family obligations – because they want to improve their lives. In real terms, this means getting a better job with opportunities for advancement.

In recognition of this wider context for its work, the Boston Adult Literacy Initiative (ALI), a consortium of 29 adult literacy programs throughout the city of Boston, has recently sought to better connect students with career preparation services and to better connect with the public through a new website.

adult learner points to poster on photosynthesis
An adult learner presents her science project in a HiSET class at Mujeres Unidas Avanzando, an ALI member program.

The ALI, led by the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development (OWD), meets five times a year to share best practices, work on professional development, and advocate for the city’s adult literacy ecosystem. Member programs provide adult learners with basic literacy skills classes, high school equivalency exam preparation, college preparation, and English language classes.

Since its re-structuring and explicit re-focus on workforce outcomes, the OWD has looked to better connect the adult literacy system with career pathways for students. As part of a year-long ALI professional development effort, the OWD held a panel discussion and webinars on best practices in integrating adult basic education and workforce development, and initiated an outside assessment of the ALI’s strengths and gaps in this area. The consulting firm, Strategy Matters, provided several recommendations on better: 1) integrating workforce readiness into the adult education curriculum, 2) collaborating with vocational partners, and 3) tracking students’ long-term outcomes. ALI members are currently reviewing these recommendations, which the OWD will release by the end of October.

One new workforce development initiative that’s already underway is the ALI’s “Career Navigator” program, piloted last year. The career navigators, liaisons with Boston’s one-stop career centers, let adult students know about the career services available to them. They gave informational presentations to classrooms and also provided one-on-one case management. In the next fiscal year, the Career Navigator liaison will also connect ALI programs with job training programs to better coordinate efforts between the two.

In July, the ALI launched a new website – ali.boston.gov – to streamline access to the initiative’s resources. This public-friendly site, linked to the OWD website, features the initiative’s programming, events, workshops, job opportunities and more. Below is a comparison of the homepage of the old ALI website with the new:

comparison of old ALI site with new ALI site

Over the last four years, the ALI has served over 10,000 students, helping to provide educational opportunities that function as a stepping stone toward greater economic stability, a cornerstone value of the OWD.