Bega, Dann-Messier, Caso

Dennis Bega, Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier and Gene Caso

Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier, assistant secretary for the Office of Vocational and Adult Education and the Office of Postsecondary Education for the U.S. Department of Education, was the special guest at a roundtable discussion hosted January 14 by the UAM College of Technology-McGehee to review the challenges of adult education in the Mississippi Delta.

Other guests at the event included Dennis Baga, regional communications director for the Department of Education, and Gene Caso, regional director of special initiatives for the Employment and Training Administration Office of the U.S. Department of Labor.

The UAM COT-McGehee was one of two Arkansas adult education sites recommended to host a visit by Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier. The other was Phillips County Community College of the University of Arkansas in Helena-West Helena.

Other guests at the McGehee meeting included three representatives from the Arkansas Department of Career Education – Deputy Director Jim Smith, Associate Director Dr. Trina Miles, and Program Manager Sherreccia Jackson. Also attending were Janice Hanlon Arkansas GED administrator, Dr. Jimmie Yeiser, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at UAM, Bob Ware, vice chancellor of the McGehee campus, Sharon Cantrell, assistant vice chancellor, Dorissa Kaufman, director of adult education for Desha, Ashley and Lincoln Counties, and Janie Carter, assistant vice chancellor of the UAM COT-Crossett.

The McGehee meeting was one of five regional engagement sessions to gather feedback to be used to develop the U.S. response to a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that highlighted the large number of U.S. adults with low basic skills.

According to a news release from the Department of Education, the report “quantifies the population of low-skilled adults, identifying some 36 million adults ages 16-65 whose skills in reading, math, and problem-solving in a technology-rich environment fall far short of what’s needed to succeed in the 21st century workforce.”

According to the same release, “the Department of Education is looking for the country’s best ideas and most creative thinking from educators and policymakers, individuals, business, industry and labor leaders, researchers and data experts, and practitioners in adult education to weigh in on best strategies for improving foundation skills and workforce readiness. The national plan is expected to be released in spring 2014.”

As part of the engagement process, the Department has made available a toolkit for communities and organizations to host their own engagement sessions and contribute their ideas to the development of the plan.