Report: NM Should Revamp Education Programs for Low-Skilled Workers

Current adult ed system is underfunded, fragmented, and has low completion rates

September 8, 2014

CONTACT: Sharon Kayne, Communications Director, NM Voices for Children
505-244-9505 ext. 110 (p), 505-401-8709 (c), 505-244-9509 (f),

ALBUQUERQUE—New Mexico could improve the quality of its workforce and strengthen its economy by implementing changes to its adult education programs for workers who have low levels of education and few job skills. Developing a career pathways framework—which weaves together and aligns adult education, workforce training, and college courses—would increase the success rate, employment opportunities, and earning potential of the state’s low-skilled workers. It would have the added advantage of improving the educational success of those workers’ children.

The value of career pathways is examined in a report by New Mexico Voices for Children. Staff members from the group’s policy team presented findings at the legislative Economic and Rural Development Committee hearing in Taos last week. The report, which was funded by the Working Poor Families Project, looks at the crucial need to increase the capacity of our workforce, the issues with the state’s current adult education programs, best practices from other states, and the opportunities to promote college access and career readiness for our many low-income working adults.

“If New Mexico’s businesses are to succeed, we need our workforce to succeed. Smart investments in our low-skilled workers would bring multiple benefits to the whole state in the near future and down the road,” said Veronica C. García, Ed.D., executive director of the child advocacy organization. “Children do better in school when their parents are well-educated and earn a family-sustaining wage, so investments in our workforce are a common-sense solution for multiple problems.”

New Mexico has one of the worst rates in the nation of adults without a high school diploma or its equivalent, and we rank poorly on the percentage of adults with no college degree. Still, the state estimates that only 5 percent of the adults who would benefit from additional education and training are served by its programs, and completion rates are only 30 percent. Career pathway programs, on the other hand, yield much higher rates of success. New Mexico has a nascent I-BEST program (Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training), which has high completion rates, but it’s only offered at a few community colleges.

“The return on investment of current adult education programs is high,” said Dr. García. “The Higher Education Department determined that New Mexico’s investment of $5.4 million returned almost $36 million in savings, growth in economic activity, and increased income. Revamping the adult education system to focus on career pathways and transitioning students into college would yield even higher returns. This is a model for success that we need to invest in for the sake of the whole state,” she added.

The report, “Strengthening New Mexico’s Workforce and Economy by Developing Career Pathways,” is available online at