In Illinois, the goal of Shifting Gears is to increase the economic competitiveness of the state by helping more low-skilled and low-wage workers advance in education and skill development services, acquire postsecondary credentials, and move up to better jobs.
Illinois Shifting Gears has specifically focused on creating and scaling up adult education and developmental education “bridge” programs, which integrate the development of basic academic skills with occupational education in key industry sectors: manufacturing, health care, and transportation/distribution/logistics.
As part of the planning phase of Shifting Gears (1.0), Illinois has funded bridge pilots, hosted peer learning on bridge programs among the community colleges, adult education providers, and local Workforce Investment Boards, and evaluated outcomes and policy implications of these bridge pilots. The state’s Shifting Gears partners have also adopted a common definition of bridge program core elements for use in Adult Education, Career and Technical Education and Workforce Investment Act program funding and reimbursements.
Illinois has prioritized five major action areas for the implementation phase of Shifting Gears (2.0), including:
- Engage key stakeholders in the implementation of the new common bridge program definition in a variety of ways from each of the state agencies and programs involved to help local education and training providers, community based organizations, and employer partners understand how they can use state and federal resources to implement bridge programs;
- Develop common materials for use across agencies in such areas as student support services and will also include regional meetings on implementing bridge programs that involve all of the state and local adult education, workforce development, and community college partners, to be held early in 2010;
- Further analyze and disseminate to the field lessons for bridge program implementation from the initial Shifting Gears bridge adult education and developmental education pilots.
- Create contextualized bridge curricula in the priority sectors that can be used statewide;
- Create student outcome measures for gauging the success of bridge programs. Examples of proposed outcome measures include making progress toward postsecondary education entry requirements, meeting those entry requirements, entering targeted postsecondary occupational programs, making progress in postsecondary occupational programs, completing such programs, earning related licenses or certificates, and securing a job in the targeted industry; and
- Expand support services and available resources for low-income, low-skilled adults and other at-risk populations who participate in bridge programs.
For more information, see Illinois' Shifting Gears Policy Agenda and Action Plan.
Illinois Shifting Gears Student Testimonial – Chad Blaney, Lake Land College
Illinois Shifting Gears Student Testimonial – James Schoonover, Lake Land College
Illinois Shifting Gears Instructor Testimonial – Judy Bennett, Lake Land College
Illinois Shifting Gears Website
Shifting Gears Illinois Brochure (2010)
The Early Impact of Bridge Programs in Illinois (2011)
This new report from Shifting Gears Illinois demonstrates the early impact of bridge programs in the state. To date, bridge programs in the state have served over 2,000 adult learners and helped 93 percent of those who completed to find a job or continue on to higher levels of education. The state hopes to take these early successes and improve upon them to help more low-skilled adults access the education and training they need to land higher-skilled jobs and family-sustaining wages.
Illinois Online Bridge Directory (February 2011)
The Online Bridge Directory is aligned with Illinois' Shifting Gears Initiative. The Directory presents information about current bridge instruction offered by Illinois' community colleges and adult education providers. Bridge programs listed in this Directory are based on the Illinois Bridge Status Survey (link below), sponsored by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and administered by the Office of Community College Research and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign between April and June 2010. A second survey will be conducted in the Spring of 2011 and results will be posted to the website in the Summer of 2011.
Bridge Programs in Illinois: Results of the 2010 Illinois Bridge Status Survey (October 2010)
Bridge programs are designed to help students transition between educational levels or from education into employment. Two- and four-year postsecondary institutions implement bridge programs for various reasons that relate to the quality of students' previous preparation or the length of time elapsed since students were in a formal educational settings. This report provides a summary of major results of the Illinois Bridge Status Survey, administered online between April and June 2010 to gain a better understanding of the extent to which bridge programs are being implemented in Illinois, as well as to build an online directory of bridge programs.
Bridge Programs in Illinois: Summaries, Outcomes, and Cross-site Findings (August 2010)
As part of the initial Shifting Gears work in Illinois, 10 community college sites were competitively selected to develop and implement bridge programs in adult education or developmental education. This report from the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL) discusses the most promising practices and lessons learned from six of sites that showed the most promise for replication. This document is intended for both practitioners and policy-makers alike.
How to Build Bridge Programs that Fit Into a Career Pathway (July 2010)
Developed by the Instituto del Progreso Latino, this step-by-step guide provides information on how to develop successful bridge programs to tap the talents of low-skilled adults. The guide is based on the achievements of Carreras en Salud, a health care bridge program created by Chicago’s Instituto del Progreso Latino and its partners, the National Council of La Raza, Association House of Chicago, and Humboldt Park Vocational Education Center of Wilbur Wright College.
Building Illinois' Workforce of the Future: Recommendations for a Student Support System That Works (2009)
Women Employed, a partner organization of Shifting Gears Illinois, presents a vision for an effective student support system that aims to improve graduation rates for low-income adult students. The brief offers specific policy and program recommendations for both community college leaders and state policymakers and includes national examples of effective programs.
Illinois Economic Recovery Plan: Jobs for Today and Tomorrow (December 2009)
In response to the crippling impact of the recession on Illinois, Governor Pat Quinn announced this job creation and retention plan that aims to create 439,000 Illinois jobs within the next six years. The plan calls for the development of infrastructure projects, expansion of education and skill development programs, support of small businesses and entrepreneurs, expansion of the use of renewable resources, and improving the economic competitiveness of Illinois by attracting industries and businesses to the state.
Creating Pathways for Adult Learners: A Visioning Document for the Illinois Adult Education and Family Literacy Program (November 2009)
The Illinois Community College Board released this strategic visioning report in November 2009 that offers a number of recommendations for an Adult Education program that meets the needs of adult learners in Illinois. The recommendations and priority actions will serve as a broad framework and starting point for future action on improving Adult Education programs.
Update on Research and Leadership (Fall 2009)
The Fall 2009 edition of an electronic newsletter produced by the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL) at the University of Illinois is devoted to Shifting Gears and includes multiple articles related to the effort, including a summary of lessons learned from the bridge pilot sites, the policy focus, an article on state level reform by Julie Strawn, lead technical assistance provider to Illinois and Senior Fellow at CLASP, and an interview with Whitney Smith, Employment Program Manager of the Joyce Foundation.
Using WIA Title I to Support Bridge Programs: A Technical Assistance Guide (August 2009)
Developed by the Bureau of Workforce Development of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, the purpose of this guide is to provide a two-fold approach to understanding training options available through Workforce Investment Act (WIA) funding. The guide is intended to assist Local Workforce Investment Areas (LWIAs) in Illinois in developing and supporting bridge programs in their communities. While the guide is principally addressed to WIA Title I administrators, it will also be of interest to community colleges, other Adult Education providers, and other providers or partners with an interest in promoting the use of bridge programs to improve student transitions to post-secondary instruction and employment.
A Conversation with Debra Bragg on Bridge Programs (July 2009)
Debra Bragg, a professor of higher education and the director of the Office of Community College Research and Leadership at Illinois, is an expert on how adults and first-generation college students use community colleges as a bridge to higher education. In this interview, Bragg discusses how bridge programs can help low-skilled adults overcome barriers to enrollment and success in postsecondary education and training.
Illinois Community College System Transitions Report (December 2008)
Developed by the Illinois Community College System, this report uses up-to-date measures and indicators that capture student progress at strategic points in the educational process and into the workforce.