Accelerated Advancement Initiative Learning Network: Workplace Learning

Last week, The Community Foundation hosted its Spring AAI Learning Network gathering at Busboys and Poets, where local service providers got together to discuss and share best practices around workplace learning. The Accelerating Advancement Initiative was created in 2012 to incubate, strengthen, and scale career pathways efforts in Metropolitan Washington. Our partners in this initiative are working to seamlessly link together progressive levels of education and training that enable lower-income individuals to strengthen their basic skills, earn a marketable credential, and advance their careers and earnings. Partners including the So Others Might Eat Center for Employment Training, Hospitality Express 4 Success, Montgomery College MI-BEST, Pathways to Success, and Training Futures are each supported but the Greater Washington Workforce Development Collaborative with financial support, technical assistance, and access to a peer learning community called the AAI Learning Network.

Our partners all do tremendous work to engage with employers around their hiring needs and work to support their participants to build specific skill sets, competencies, and degrees and certifications to both build participants’ employability and ensure employers are receiving candidates that are well-prepared to meet their needs. At last week’s meeting, guest presenter Sarah Miller with CAEL, the Coalition for Adult and Experiential Learning, shared some best practices used by other providers around the country in supporting work-based learning—a set of highly effective strategies that pairs basic skills development with real-world career and job skills experiences . CAEL is a leading national organization that advocates and supports innovation on behalf of all adult learners, regardless of their socio-economic circumstances, to increase access to education and economic security and to develop and provide effective services and tools. The challenge of linking program participants with the skills needed to advance along a career pathway is a topic our regional partners are tackling. SOME CET shared how they are working to get adult workers hired:

“Last Friday, SOME CET got to sit down and participate in a hearty meal and robust discussion presented by Sarah Miller from CAEL. Sarah spotlighted several examples of work-based learning, informal, non-formal, and formal. As representatives of SOME CET we were invigorated and proud to share elements of our Workforce Development Program that fostered an environment of work-Based Learning at CET. CET’s Business Partnership Liaison shared information on CET’s Externship Assessment Briefing and utilizing it as a tool for Tiered externship placement of Trainees leading to a marked uptick of employment opportunities for graduates after completing their externship placements.   Some of the other activities taking place at SOME CET around work-based learning include use of Job Search Club, comprised of a formal group of job seekers working on job search methods and techniques to support their employment goals, often moderated by career experts or our employer partners. Job club is an ongoing and interactive workshop that provides continuous support before and after obtaining employment.

CET also shared how having Employer Partners come in to our classrooms and lead Trainees in lectures and learning sessions around specific Industry skills needed prepared Trainees to obtain employment with the company after completing training. It was refreshing to hear from Sarah about work happening nationally in places like Washington state where great work has been done to link learning with work. Sarah talked about the importance of Prior Learning Assessments, or the practice of auditing a participant’s past experiences for valuable life and work skills that could be shared on resumes or in interviews with potential employers. Despite the snow and less than ideal weather conditions outside, The Community Foundation and CAEL created an engaging and participatory atmosphere. We are happy we were able to share and be a part of the discussion.”

To date, our Accelerating Advancement Initiative programs have served over 700 individuals, helping 626 enroll in post-secondary education or training, 440 make a measurable basic skills gain, 458 earn a credential, and 361 obtain employment thus far. This great work is made possible by the generosity of more than a dozen local funders, corporations, and Community Foundation donors that support the Workforce Development Collaborative’s work. For more information on this project, and on how you can get involved, feel free to contact Benton Murphy, Senior Director, at