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Annotated Bibliography on Workplace Education

Volume 7: Chapter Ten
Connie Nelson

In Chapter Ten, Connie Nelson describes the current state of workplace education, a subset of adult basic education in which skills-based instruction is offered to employees at the workplace or union hall. Workplace education, she explains, offers access to education; a context (the work) for creating relevant curriculum; a community of learners (the workers) who share a common experience; and opportunities and incentives for further education and training. Workplace education projects are always partnerships involving at least an employer, an educational provider, and learners.

Nelson charts the recent history of workplace education, noting that the higher skill requirements for many U.S. jobs, reorganization that shifts decision-making to frontline workers, and technological changes have required workers with higher skills levels. Demographic changes such as the increased percentage of the workforce whose first language is not English and the tendency for workers to remain in the workforce longer have contributed to the need for continued education of all members of the workforce. Despite this need, however, Nelson points out, few employers consistently provide training of any kind for their lower wage workers. Studies of workplace education programs initiated via use of state grants find they are more likely to continue after the grants end if the companies are closely held or make decisions locally, experience external pressures for increased skill requirements, have a corporate philosophy supporting training, or have a specific reason to invest in the skills of their current workers.

Nelson reviews a variety of studies and guides to implementing quality workplace education programs. Extensive and ongoing communication among all vested parties seems to be a key element in success.

Resources on Workplace Education

As a supplement to Chapter Ten, Nelson provides an annotated bibliography, organized around these topics: reasons to offer workplace education, guides to practice and design of workplace education, worker writing, and Web sites. She includes books, research reports, book chapters, guides, handbooks, Web sites, and other online resources. For each entry, Nelson provides a brief description and, where appropriate, offers some background information on the authors or agencies that created the materials.