In 2012, the Joyce Foundation funded a two-year initiative that supported outreach to Midwest employers in order to demonstrate the power of PLA as a workforce development tool and to accelerate adult completion rates and raise the educational attainment level of the workforce in the region.
In year one of the grant, CAEL met with a total of 29 employers in Illinois, Indiana and Minnesota, as well as Michigan, which was not included in the original proposal, and made presentations on PLA and LearningCounts to six employer groups. CAEL expanded the efforts with the three employers that had already been working with Brunswick, Starbucks, and McDonalds and began contract discussions with two others, Home Depot and UPS. As part of the intensive employer outreach and education campaign, CAEL developed a Tool Kit to assist employers in better understanding and using Prior Learning Assessment (PLA). CAEL partnered with organizations such as Monster.com, Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Aspen Institutes Skills for Americas Future, the Human Resource Policy Institute and others to reach a broader corporate audience. CAEL worked with industry associations, public agencies and colleges to secure opportunities for CAEL to participate in major industry-specific meetings. These efforts included the NAM Manufacturing Institute, Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, Department of Workforce Development (DWD) and the Higher Education Commission, Northern Illinois Workforce Coalition, as well as the Harper College Advanced Manufacturing Program.
The second year of the grant focused more on direct sales of LearningCounts, including a new packaging and pricing structure for servicing the largest employers. CAELs first major employer implementation of a LearningCounts-branded website was with Verizon Wireless in Fall 2013, and the company recently expanded the website to serve the Verizon Wireline side of the business. In October of 2014, CAEL launched the second branded website for Home Depot. While Home Depot and Verizon are not headquartered in the Midwest, they have large numbers of workers throughout the region. CAEL concluded that large employers with 25,000 employees or more are embracing LearningCounts because of quality, consistency, and scalability across geographic regions. Such organizations tend to have chief learning officers who embrace creative learning solutions and want to maximize the utilization of tuition reimbursement funds.
During this two-year grant, CAEL made great strides in educating employers on the benefits of PLA and LearningCounts. While this was fruitful work, CAEL has expanded the reach to educate the business community beyond solely PLA education through the Business Champions initiative, as described below.