As the government prepares to enact across-the-board spending cuts to a host of federal programs, counties should be ready for how the sequester will affect programs which serve their residents. According to the National Skills Coalition, sequestration will cut the budget of many unemployment and training programs currently serving the millions who are out of work. One way that counties can counteract the effects of these cuts is to support Adult Basic Education (ABE) programs. ABE programs are a low-cost tool for unemployed workers to improve their skills as well as their chances of reentering the workforce.
ABE programs provide the high school level training required to pass the General Education Development (GED) test, as well as English language instruction for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). A high school diploma is required for admission into postsecondary programs, so students who drop out of high school rely on the GED to enter college and pursue long term career goals.
Two at-risk populations stand to gain from these education programs: unemployed workers who did not complete high school, and people who lack English language proficiency. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate is highest among workers without a high school diploma. In February 2013, the unemployment rate for this population was 12.7%, compared to 8.8% for high school graduates and 6.8% for those with some college.
ABE programs also provide the immigrant population with skills that are crucial for integrating them and their families into the general population. Without English language proficiency, many immigrants live on the fringes of society, unable to access basic social services or contribute to the local economy.
The general education offered by ABE programs not only ensures young people can enter a career path, but is a source of retraining for laid-off workers who lack a high school diploma. The analytical and communication skills students gain from GED and ESOL courses serve students for the rest of their lives. Adult Basic Education is one tool which can be used to reduce local unemployment, as well as prevent unemployment in the future.