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Glossary of Workforce Education Terms

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

This glossary was developed to assist workplace and other adult educators working with new partners as required by the Workforce Investment Act. The definitions provided here are not meant to be comprehensive or exhaustive, but are those commonly used among groups such as business and industry, unions, vocational and technical education, welfare, and workforce and economic development groups as well as in the field of adult education.

Following the Glossary of Workforce Education Terms is a Glossary of Workforce Acronyms. Click here to go directly to the acronyms.

Terms without citations were developed by the Core Knowledge Group of the Workforce Education Special Collection.

- A -

Accessibility – Extent to which a program or services can be reached by those who want or need them. (PA WIN)

Action Learning – Hands-on approach to teaching and learning in which students work collaboratively to increase their understanding through an active process of “doing and reflecting” on real-life tasks, problems, issues, or assignments. (PA WIN)

Adult Basic Education – Instructional programs that provide the basic skills to adults who are performing below the ninth-grade instructional level in reading, writing, computation, computer literacy, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills. (Task Force on Adult Education, VA, 2001)

Adult Education Program “An instructional program below the college credit level for persons over the age of compulsory school attendance who are not enrolled in the regular public school program, including adult basic education, credit programs, cultural adult education, external diploma programs, general adult education and general educational development programs.” (Code of Virginia 22.1-223 as cited in Task Force on Adult Education, VA, 2001)

Adult Secondary Education – Instructional programs that serve adults with less than a high school diploma (or equivalent) and with basic skills from ninth grade and above, including General Educational Development credential (GED), high school credit programs for adults, and external diploma programs. (Task Force on Adult Education, VA, 2001)

Adult Literacy – “An individual’s ability to read, write, and speak in English, compute and solve problems at levels of proficiency necessary to function on the job, in the family of the individual, and in society.” (Title II of the Workforce Investment Act as cited in Council for Advancement of Adult Literacy, 2002)

Annual Performance Reviews – A systematic, periodic review and analysis of an employee’s job performance by a superior, to compare that performance to a set of predetermined standards, identify strengths and weaknesses, and develop a plan to improve an employee’s performance. (PA WIN)

Apprenticeship Training – A formal process by which individuals learn their jobs through a combination of classroom instruction and on-the-job training from a skilled expert in their specific job. (PA WIN)

Assessment – Collecting and analyzing information to make judgments about the needs and learning progress of individuals or groups; also, techniques, devices, or instruments used to collect evidence, ranging from formal and standardized (such as TABE) to criterion referenced tests (CRTs) to alternative (portfolios) to informal (observation checklists). (PA WIN)

Authentic Materials – Real-life realia or texts that occur in the lives of students outside of the classroom (such as a manual, standard operating procedures SOPs, or pay stub) that are used for instructional purposes in the classroom. (PA WIN)

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- B -

Baseline Information – Information that is collected before a program begins, to provide a basis for planning, implementation, and evaluation. (PA WIN)

Basic Workplace Skills –  Essential core skills and knowledge that emerging, incumbent, and transitional workers need to function effectively and safely in a workplace; they are keyed to effective performance in a broad range of jobs, used together (integrated), and are portable across workplaces. (PA WIN)

Basic Skills Course – Development and/or remedial training fundamental to the workplace in courses such as literacy, reading comprehension, writing, math, English as a second language and learning how to learn. (PA WIN)

Benchmarking – Continuous, systematic process for evaluating products, services, or work processes of programs or organizations for the purpose of improvement. (PA WIN)

Business Process Redesign (BPR) – the analysis and design of work flows and processes within and between organizations. Increased attention to business processes is largely due to the Total Quality Movement (TQM).  (Malhotra, 1988)

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- C -

Career Development – Education, support, and employment planning as well as access to services for individuals, ranging from career awareness and exploration, counseling, education and training opportunities and certifications, to long-range “career pathway” plans leading to better jobs, greater job satisfaction or higher pay. (PA WIN)

Career Path – Long-range plan for career growth to better jobs, great job satisfaction or higher pay; systems approach integrating education, training, certification, support, and employment services. (PA WIN)

Career Readiness Certificate – Term used by a consortium of several states formed to develop a model for a portable skills credential based on WorkKeys assessments signifying to a potential employer that the holder has achieved acceptable levels in foundation skills necessary for success in the workplace. Other states use alternate terms for similar concepts; CASAS Workforce Skills Assessment is also in use to determine the achievement level. (See also “EFF Work Readiness Credential”)

Clusters – The terms “clusters” and “sectors” are sometimes used interchangeably, but while “clusters” often refers to groups of related occupations with a common purpose (products; markets; training needs; labor pools) in a particular geographic area, “sectors” more often refers to groupings of industry divisions or occupations by type (examples: Manufacturing; Retail Trade; Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation; Health Care).

Collaborative Learning – Education environment that stresses interaction among learners and with instructors, mutual support and respect rather than competition, and the construction rather than transmission of knowledge; learners often work together in pairs or small groups on a common problem. (PA WIN)

Community Partnerships – Linkage and coordination of various public and private community organizations with the goal of creating a collaborative and seamless system to meet the various needs of community members. (PA WIN)

Community-Based Literacy Programs – Private, not-for-profit literacy organizations that offer adult education and literacy services.

Competency – The requisite ability to perform a specific task or qualify for a specific role; a functional qualification as opposed to a credential-based qualification. (National Advisory Council on Adult Education)  A characteristic of an employee that contributes to successful job performance and the achievement of organizational results. These include knowledge, skills, and abilities plus other characteristics such as values, motivation, initiative, and self-control. Competencies may be defined organizationally or on an individual basis. (NYS)

Computer Literacy – Ability to use computer software, including off-the-shelf applications such as word processing, spreadsheets, databases, graphics and communications, among others.  Can include ability to use workplace-specific software applications.  Does not include ability to use computer programming languages. (PA WIN)

Content Standards – The range of desirable knowledge and skills within a subject area. (PA WIN)

Contextualized Instruction (sometimes referred to as “the functional context approach”) – Developing skills, knowledge, and attitudes drawn from the context in which they will be used, using real-life materials and situations from that context. (PA WIN)

Continuous Improvement – Commitment to improving performance using a team approach to decision-making using systematic collection and analysis of performance data. (PA WIN)

Core Services – Refers to universally available services through the One-Stop Centers for all individuals and employers; core services for individuals can include initial assessment, job search assistance, and information about labor market, financial aid, providers, and support services.  Core services for employers include orientation to One-Stop Centers, multiple methods to list job openings, access to resumes, job matching, information on training providers, human resources and labor market.

Correctional Education Programs – Programs at local, state, and federal prisons which may provide adult basic education, preparation for the GED, vocational education, and sometimes college-level education. (Task Force on Adult Education, VA, 2001)

Cost-Benefit Analysis – Process of comparing the costs of establishing an intervention (such as a workplace education program) with the benefits (such as increased productivity, less waste or fewer errors, lower absenteeism, better communication). (PA WIN)

Critical Incident – Event, action, or behavior in the workplace that is systematically analyzed and discussed to improve behavior or performance. (PA WIN)

Culture of the Workplace – Behaviors, values, and codes that workers use to govern job performance, appearance and interaction with others at work; includes both formal (i.e., written policies) and informal (i.e., hearing through the "grapevine" about another worker's argument with a supervisor). (PA WIN)

Customer Service Training – Training on how to maintain or improve customer relations. Includes repair, upgrading, or maintenance of products. Includes training for customer service and call center operators. (PA WIN)

Customized Instruction – Specially designed curriculum and instruction tailored to meet the specific needs, goals, and interests of a certain group/s (such as employers and workers) or individuals. (PA WIN)

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- D -

DACUM (Developing a Curriculum) – Approach to job task analysis that specifies in detail the tasks that successful workers must perform on the job. 

Dislocated Workers – Workers who have lost their jobs due to layoffs or other economic transitions; one-stop services for dislocated workers include job search and job placement assistance, labor market information, career counseling, employment planning, and access to relevant training and education opportunities. (PA WIN)

DOLETA – U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration that administers federal government job training and worker dislocation programs; website provides extensive resources and links for workers, business and industry, and workforce professionals. (PA WIN)

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- E -

Electronic Performance Support System (EPSS) – An integrated computer application that uses any combination of expert systems, hypertext, embedded animation, and/or hypermedia to help a user perform a task in real time quickly and with a minimum of support by other people. (PA WIN)

EFF Work Readiness Credential – Based on nationally-validated EFF (Equipped for the Future) applied learning standards and business consensus on what work readiness means. Provides a common, national standard for defining, assessing, and certifying that individuals can meet the demands of entry-level work and learn on the job.

Employability Skills – those skills that are related to a person getting and keeping a job, or making advancements in their current job often includes the “soft skills” such as teamwork.

Employee Access to Key Business Information – An organizational policy in which all employees are given access to certain financial and market information about the competitive position of the firm. (PA WIN)

Employee Involvement with Management in Business Decisions – An organizational policy in which management employees have a say in decisions including equipment purchases, market strategy, and management initiatives that affect the firm. (PA WIN)

Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) – A plan under which the company credits shares of company stock to participating employees. The amount may be available immediately or at retirement. (PA WIN)

English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) – Instructional programs that provide basic educational services to adults who are not native speakers of English; the primary goal is proficiency in English. (Task Force on Adult Education, VA, 2001)

Equipped for the Future (EFF) – National standards-based educational improvement initiative for adult basic education and English language learning.

Evaluation – Process of collecting and analyzing data on various aspects of a program, usually for the purpose of program planning and goal setting, securing funding, improving processes and outcomes, and allocating resources. Includes formative (collecting and analyzing data to focus on “what's working and what needs to be improved”) and summative (collecting and analyzing to investigate “what's been achieved” in a program). (PA WIN)

External Diploma Program (EDP)  A nontraditional high school diploma program designed for adults who have acquired many skills through work and life experiences; participants must demonstrate a mastery of 65 skills expected of a high school graduate and must have an individual competency that can be documented (work experience, a special talent, or completion of a job entry level course).  All tasks must be completed with 100% accuracy. (Task Force on Adult Education, VA, 2001)

Extranet – A collaborative network that uses internet technology to link organizations with their suppliers, customers and other organizations that share common goals or information. (PA WIN)

Executive Development – Programs that develop the leadership and vision of current and potential senior executives.  Such programs focus on responsibilities and challenges for leading corporate-wide initiatives and/ or major business units. Includes strategic planning, policy and goal setting. (PA WIN)

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- F -

Family Literacy – Parents and children - or more broadly - adults and children - learning together. Also known as intergenerational literacy, and in some cases, community literacy, the rationale underlying such work is that parents (and adults in communities) are children's first teachers; that much learning occurs beyond traditional school settings, and that learning is a life long process. (NIFL Family Literacy Special Collection)

Fluency – The ability to use a skill with speed and ease. (PA WIN)

Formative Evaluation – A method of judging the worth of a program while the program activities are forming or happening. Formative evaluation focuses on the process. (Bhola 1990)

Foundations – Basic skills, thinking skills, and personal qualities necessary for workplace success. (SCANS)

Functional Illiteracy – A quality attributed to an individual who lacks one, or a combination, of the basic skills necessary to communicate effectively in written or arithmetic forms. (National Advisory Council on Adult Education)

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- G -

GED (General Educational Development) – An exam developed and distributed by the General Educational Development Testing Service.  A GED credential documents the attainment of high school-level academic skills. About 96 percent of U.S. employers accept the GED credential as equal to a traditional high school diploma. New GED Tests became effective January 1, 2002The GED Tests (2002 series) measure knowledge in five different areas: language arts, writing; social studies; science; language arts, reading; and mathematics. An important feature of the GED Tests is an essay that documents ability to write and communicate effectively.

GED Fast Track (or alternatively “Fast Track GED”) – Not a standardized program, but generally refers to instruction made available to adult learners who already read above 10th grade level and understand basic math (decimals, fractions, beginning algebra, etc.) who then qualify for an intensive, accelerated, and targeted GED preparation course.

Gender Gap – Under-representation of women in certain education programs (such as math, science, engineering, and technology), occupations, and better paying jobs; equal pay for equal work cannot be achieved if a gender gap exists; recent research suggests that initiatives to close the gender gap are realizing success in certain areas. (PA WIN)

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- H -

Higher Order Skills – Thinking skills used to integrate basic skills and knowledge to solve problems, make decisions, and better understand information, situations, and people. They include critical and creative thinking as well as metacognition (being aware of and managing one's thoughts and thought processes). Increasingly seen as essential or “basic” for all adults in their roles in the workplace, family and community.

High Performance Organization (HPO) – Workplace in which employees solve problems, improve the work process, and monitor the quality of the product or service through increased communication, feedback, and teamwork; committed to excellence, product quality, and customer satisfaction. (PA WIN)

Human Capital – Knowledge, skills, and abilities of the men and women who comprise a workforce; often related to an organization's efforts to realize and enhance its human capital potential. (PA WIN)

Human Resource Development – The integrated use of training and development, organization development, and career development to implement individual, group, and organizational effectiveness. (Bates & Phelan, 2002)

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- I -

Incidental Learning – Learning without intent as a side effect of an experience; may be related to frequency and the particular context in which the learning occurred. (PA WIN)

Incumbent Workers – Individuals who are already employed; may include recent hires as well as individuals who have been employed for some length of time. (PA WIN)

Individual Development Plans< – A specific course of action designed jointly by an employee and a supervisor to outline the employee’s career development objectives and associated training needs. (PA WIN)

Individual Training Account – Established under WIA to focus training spending from block grants to an individual voucher system. (PA WIN)

Individualized Education Plan (IEP) – Written education plan for individual learners including action plan, goals and objectives, and timetable; usually developed jointly by educators, counselors, and learners; individualized employment plans can be available through One-Stop Centers to enable individuals to plan a career path. (PA WIN) Local One-Stop Career Centers are often operated locally and may have a different “brand name” such as CareerLink, JobLink, among others, and may have different services available than what is listed here.  One-Stop centers anywhere in the United States can be located by calling the toll-free helpline, 1-877-US2-JOBS.

Intensive Services – Refers to services available through One-Stop Centers for individuals and employers. Intensive services are available to adults and dislocated workers who meet eligibility criteria and can include comprehensive assessment, individual employment/education plan, group counseling, individual career planning, and case management. Intensive services for employers can include job profiling, seminars and workshops, customized assessments, increase linkages with other employers, and entrepreneurial and federal procurement assistance. (PA WIN)

Interpersonal Communication – Training in communication and cooperation among individuals and groups, including conflict resolution, diversity training, teamwork, and group dynamics. (PA WIN)

Interpersonal Skills – Social and communication skills needed to interact and communicate effectively with others in various contexts. (PA WIN)

International Standardization Organization (ISO) – An international non-governmental organization and a network of the national standards institutes of 148 countries that voluntarily agree on the technological and scientific bases underpinning health, safety and environmental legislation to be applied consistently in the classification of materials, in the manufacture and supply of products, in testing and analysis, in terminology and in the provision of services.  ISO 9000 is concerned with "quality management” standards that specify what the organization does to enhance customer satisfaction. ISO 14000 is primarily concerned with "environmental management” standards that specify what the organization does to minimize harmful effects on the environment caused by its activities. The vast majority of ISO standards are highly specific to a particular product, material, or process.

Intranet – A general term describing any network contained within an organization; used to refer primarily to networks that use internet technology. (PA WIN)

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- J -

Job Corps – An education and vocational training program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor available to young people ages 16 through 24 who meet certain income requirements. Enrollees learn a trade, earn a high school diploma or GED and get help finding a good job. Many employers receive tax credit upon hiring Job Corps graduates by taking advantage of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit Program.

Job Readiness Skills – Skills that signal an individual is ready for employment in general. May include academic, computer, interpersonal, and/or lifelong learning skills. (PA WIN)   

Job-Related Skills – Skills that are necessary for performance of either a specific job or an occupational area in general. May include academic, technical, interpersonal, and/or lifelong learning skills.  (PA WIN)

Job Rotation or Cross Training< – Program or workplace practice in which employees rotate among jobs requiring different skills and responsibilities or are trained to do multiple jobs. (PA WIN)

Job Shadowing – A method for helping employees develop expertise in a job.  Individuals accompany an employee at the workplace, observing and learning about different tasks associated with an occupation. (Eye on Education); used in both pre-employment and on-the-job training.

Job Task Analysis – Collection and analysis of the component knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to successfully perform all aspects of a task; may include literacy task analysis that focuses on the requisite literacy skills. (PA WIN)

Job-Specific Technical Training< – Skill development that focuses on the procedures and tools, including the use of computer-based technologies, to create products, deliver services, or engage in business processes; typically provided to workers who use technology, equipment, or machinery in their jobs. (PA WIN)

Joint Program A worker education program run jointly by an employer and union as part of the union-management contract.

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- K -

Knowledge/Skill-Based Pay – An alternative pay system in which compensation is linked to the mastery of certain skills or work-related knowledge, rather than to employee position or length of tenure. (PA WIN)

Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSAs) – A term generated from competency modeling to define measurable job performance competency factors that can be assessed against standards and improved through training and development. (VA WIN)  Abilities reference worker characteristics while skills and knowledge refer to worker requirements.

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- L -

Learning Organization An organization skilled at creating, acquiring and transferring knowledge and at modifying its behavior to reflect new knowledge and insights. (Giesecke & McNeil, 2004) This knowledge is used to plan and continually improve operations.

Learning Technologies – Electronic technologies to deliver information and facilitate the development of skills and knowledge. (PA WIN)

Literacy – According to the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS), literacy is a skill-based proficiency continuum; a mode of adult behavior using printed and written information to function in society, to achieve one’s goals, and to develop knowledge and potential. Includes prose literacy, document literacy, and quantitative literacy (math). (Bloom & Lafleur, 1999)

Literacy Task Analysis (or audit) – Systematic approach (similar to job task analysis) to identify and prioritize the basic or foundation skills and knowledge needed to complete a job task; results can be used to develop customized workplace basic skills instruction. (PA WIN)

Local Area Network (LAN) – A network of computers sharing the resources of a single processor or server within a relatively small geographic area. (PA WIN)

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- M -

Malcolm Baldrige Education Criteria for Performance Excellence – Self-assessment that allows education providers to use criteria to identify organizational strengths and to target key opportunities for program improvement and performance excellence. Measures a wide range of key organizational performance indicators of learner/stakeholder outcomes, education service and outcomes, and operations.

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) – An agreement developed and executed between the local workforce investment and all WIA mandated One-Stop partners relating to the operation of services. (Glossary of Workplace Education Terms, 2003)

Mentoring – Serving as a model for others who are inexperienced; includes both the physical modeling of a task or behavior as well as the mental (thinking) steps required to effectively perform the task or behavior. (PA WIN)

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- N -

New Employee Orientation – Training designed to provide new employees with complete and uniform information about the company, organizational functions and policies, compensation, benefits, services, work requirements, standards, rules, safety and employee relations. (PA WIN)

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- O -

Occupational Cluster – A grouping of occupations such as manufacturing, health care, or information technology from one or more industries that share common skill requirements. Occupational clusters form the basis for developing national skill standards, organizing instruction in all aspects of industry, establishing career academies, and creating career pathways or majors as part of school-to-work programs.

Occupational Safety/Compliance Training – Training provided to meet environmental health and safety requirements, Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action requirements, right-to -know and government-mandated training. (Glossary of Workplace Education Terms, 2003)

Occupational Skill Standards – Describe what people need to know and the level at which they need to perform in certain jobs within an industry sector. The National Skill Standards Board (NSSB) led this initiative in response to the National Skills Standards Act of 1994 and resulted in an industry-led effort to focus on skill requirements, skill assessments, and certification processes.

One-Stop Centers – Mandated under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), all workforce areas in the U.S. are required to have a “one-stop” delivery system that provides access in one location to employment-related services, information and programs for job seekers and employers. (PA WIN) Local One-Stop Career Centers are operated locally and may have a different “brand name” such as CareerLink, JobLink, among others. Specific services available may differ among One-Stops.  One-Stop centers anywhere in the United States can be located by calling the toll-free helpline, 1-877-US2-JOBS.

One-Stop Operators – Responsible for administering One-Stop Centers; may range from simply coordinating services providers to being a primary provider of services. (PA WIN)   

Organizational Approach – In a workplace education program, examines basic skills within the context of workplace culture and other workplace issues; recognizes that learning and using skills is integrated into all aspects of an organization. (PA WIN)

Organizational (or Workplace) Needs Assessment – Analysis of an organization's mission, work processes, and initiatives (e.g., introductions of new technologies or decision-making procedures) and the role that basic skills play in order to decide if and how a basic skills initiative can serve the organization and its workers.

Outcome Measures – (from National Reporting System for federally-funded adult basic skills programs) include educational gain, entered employment, retained employment, receipt of secondary school diploma or GED and placement in postsecondary education or training. (PA WIN)

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- P -

Participatory Approach – All members of a group or organization have the opportunity to contribute through inquiry and reflection to the activities of the group; a democratic process in which the power is shared equally, with individuals having substantial amounts of control and responsibility. (PA WIN)

Partnerships – Collaborative partnerships establish common goals and agree to pool resources, jointly plan, implement and evaluate partnership activities. Cooperative partnerships involve partners who help each other to meet respective organization goals, without making substantial changes in the services each provide. (PA WIN)

Peer Review of Performance, or 360 Degree Feedback – A performance appraisal system in which employees’ work performance is evaluated (at least in part) by coworkers. (PA WIN)

Performance Standards – Benchmarks, or specified levels of achievement, of expectations for educational outcomes that provide a basis for measuring learning outcomes. (PA WIN)

Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996 (P.L. 104-193) – A federal welfare reform plan that requires work in exchange for time-limited assistance.  A new system of block grants to states for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) was created, changing the nature and provision of welfare benefits in America.

Private Sector – When used in relation to workforce development, refers to a segment of the population that is not part of federal, state or local government infrastructure, such as commercial businesses, community based organizations, or individuals. (PA WIN)

Program Quality Indicator – Program characteristics or practices that provide evidence of the ability of the adult education program to deliver services, to satisfy customer (learner or employer) needs and aspirations, to continuously improve, and to be accountable. (PA WIN)

Public Sector – When used in relation to workforce development, refers to national, state or local government-funded institutions, agencies, and services. (PA WIN)

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- Q -

Quality Consciousness – Knowing how and why quality standards are set and inspection is performed to ensure quality, how quality is achieved, and one’s role in contributing to quality. (PA WIN)

Qualitative Data – Data in the form of words based on observation, interviews, or documents not usually immediately accessible for analysis, but requiring some processing; focus on naturally occurring, ordinary events in natural settings, feature richness and holism with a strong potential for revealing complexity, and are typically collected over a sustained period; are fundamentally well suited for locating the meanings people place on the events, processes, and structures of their lives. (Miles & Huberman, 1994) Qualitative data are gathered and compared from multiple sources such as case studies, focus groups, or document review.

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- R -

Release Time – When employers allow workers to take time off work to participate in education or training activities; may be paid or unpaid release time. (PA WIN)

Retention (employee) – Efforts engaged in to minimize employee turnover, especially of entry-level employees.

Return on Investment (ROI) – A calculation of the financial benefits of a workplace education program in relationship to its cost. It is usually expressed as a percentage of the original investment. (

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- S -

SCANS – Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills: formed by the U.S. Department of Labor in 1990 to examine the skills demands of the modern workplace and determine whether the current and future workforce is prepared to meet those needs. Identified five core competencies (resources, interpersonal skills, information, systems, and technology) and three foundations (basic skills, thinking skills, and personal qualities) that are necessary for workplace success. (PA WIN)

School-to-Work -- An umbrella term for many activities, experiences and opportunities that prepare [K-12] students for the world of work. Some noted examples of School-to-Work activities are Youth Apprenticeship, Mentorship, Internship, Job Shadowing, Career Exploration, and Integration of Academic and Vocational curriculum. (School- to-Work Outreach Project. Institute on Community Integration: University of Minnesota. Available:

Sector – The terms “clusters” and “sectors” are sometimes used interchangeably, but while “sectors” more often refers to groupings of industry divisions or occupations by type (examples: Manufacturing; Retail Trade; Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation; Health Care), “clusters” often refers to groups of related occupations with a common purpose (products; markets; training needs; labor pools) in a particular geographic area. “Sector” is also often used to distinguish between “the private sector” and “the public sector.”

Self-Directed Work Teams – Groups of employees with complete responsibility for the quality and quantity or their outputs. Self-directed work teams may have responsibility for work schedules, performance appraisals, personnel management, budgeting, or setting performance targets and production quotas. (PA WIN)

Simulator – A device or system that replicates or imitates a real device or system. (PA WIN)

Situated Learning – Instructional approach in which practitioners guide students to think, interact, reflect and solve problems within simulated real-world situations and materials; builds on the concept of cognitive apprenticeship in which students observe instructors (or “experts”) who model thinking and problem solving strategies and support students, as needed, and continually observe their growth and progress. (PA WIN)

Skill Certification – A formal process used to ascertain and distinguish the mastery of a set of skills according to predefined standards.  May be linked to either a particular occupation or trade, or a particular job or process. (PA WIN)

Skill Standards – Performance specifications that identify the knowledge, skills, and abilities an individual needs to succeed in a workplace; they define a common language of quality and level of achievement. (PA WIN)

Soft Skills – These are also referred to as employability skills, and include personal management skills, interpersonal skills, and leadership skills. These are social skills that relate to a person's ability to interact with customers and employees. (

Stakeholders All those with a "stake" in the organization's success (e.g. shareholders, managers, employees, customers, suppliers, etc.). (

Statistical Process Control (SPC) – System of charting and analyzing statistical information about the production and service delivery process at several points along the process. (PA WIN)

Summative Evaluation – A method of judging the worth of a program at the end of the program activities. (Bhola, 1990). The focus is on outcomes.

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Task Analysis – Collection and analysis of the component knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to successfully perform all aspects of a task; may include literacy task analysis that focuses on the requisite literacy skills. (PA WIN) See also “Job Task Analysis”

Task Forces, Problem Solving Teams, or Quality Circles – Groups of employees that meet regularly to come up with solutions to problems concerning people and productivity. (PA WIN)

Technical Knowledge – The understanding of why and how work processes flow and tools are used in a particular work environment.  Applying technical knowledge, particularly the key elements of basic computer proficiency, is often a fundamental concept necessary to function effectively in today's work environment.

Team-Based (Collaborative) Approach – Approach to workplace education in which key stakeholder groups (e.g., various levels of management, union representatives, participating workers, education providers) are involved in planning, operating, and evaluating a workplace education program;  stresses systematic integration of education activities with other organizational development initiatives (such as technical training and human resources initiatives).

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) – Federal welfare funding created by the Welfare Reform Law of 1996 consisting of block grants to states providing them with greater flexibility in designing programs to help low-income parents move into employment, retain jobs and move toward self-sufficiency. (see PRWORA) (PA WIN)

Total Quality Management (TQM)< – An integrated approach to organizational improvement and increasing product and service quality whose core ideas include doing things right the first time, striving for continuous improvement, and a devotion to understanding and meeting customer needs. (PA WIN)

Training Information System – A computer-based system for assessing, tracking, and improving employee performance. Systems may include employee training history reports, training course scheduling and registration, individual development plans, and training expenditure tracking. (PA WIN)

Training Resource Center – A designated area within an establishment where training personnel, materials, and information are relocated. (PA WIN)

Train-the-Trainer Courses – Training courses that teach nontraditional training staff members such as managers, subject matter experts, and team leader skills such as instructional design and group facilitation to enable them to deliver formal training to other establishment employees. (PA WIN)

Transitional Workers – Those who lose their jobs because of plant closings or layoffs and those who leave a job for any reason and are seeking employment and/or education and training. (PA WIN)

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Under-Employed Adults – Individuals with low wages, insufficient benefits and supports to provide life-sustaining earnings for themselves and their families (PA WIN); employed only part-time when one needs full-time employment; not making full use of one’s skills in employment opportunities, as in “migrants are likely to be under-employed.” (

Unemployed Person – (1) Any person who is not working or who is not employed in some income-producing activity; (2) a person who wants to work, and is in the age bracket where it is expected that he or she will be self-supporting, who has a need for income, and is acceptable in the workforce, but is not working. (National Advisory Council on Adult Education)

Unskilled Worker – Any employee whose work does not require specialized training or knowledge.  Tasks are almost always physical [and routine in nature.]  The primary requirement is the ability to follow simple directions. (National Advisory Council on Adult Education)

Upgrading – Raising the performance or educational level of individuals or organizations. (National Advisory Council on Adult Education)

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- V -

Value-Added Outcome – Significant savings or improvements in processes or outcomes that are the result of an idea or suggestion. (PA WIN)

Vocational English as a Second Language (VESL) – English language skills needed for a specific occupation, industry cluster, or vocation. (PA WIN

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- W -

Wagner-Peyser ActLaw enacted in 1933 establishing a nationwide public employment service; amended by the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (Public Law 105-220)

Waste – Scrap or rejection rate of the number of goods or services that did not meet minimum quality standards. (PA WIN)

Welfare Reform/Welfare to Work – A welfare reform plan, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-193), (PRWORA), that requires work in exchange for time-limited assistance. A new system of block grants to states for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) was created, changing the nature and provision of welfare benefits in America. Moving people from welfare into work is now one of the primary goals of federal welfare policy.

Wide Area Network (WAN) – A network of computers sharing the resources of one or more processors or servers over a relatively large geographic area. (PA WIN)

“Work First” – Work in exchange for time-limited assistance, i.e., moving TANF recipients to work as soon as they are job ready or no later than two years after receiving assistance. (PA WIN)

Worker-Centered Education – Curriculum and instruction that focuses on workers' experiences and construction of knowledge rather than those of the instructors or employers. (PA WIN)

Workforce Development – The function of assisting individuals, employers and communities achieve occupational competencies necessary for competitive advantage in a dynamic marketplace. (PA WIN)

Workforce Education – (1) Includes ABE, GED, and ESL services designed to demonstrate a strong relationship between basic skills and the literacy requirements of a changing workplace; improves the foundation skills of adults entering the workforce and dislocated workers as they prepare for job training and employment or new occupations. (PA WIN); (2) “work-related learning experiences which can include foundation skills, technical and computer skills, serve either employed or unemployed workers, are provided inside or outside the workplace and focus on the skills and knowledge workers need to get and keep good jobs and meet demands for productivity, safety and advancement” (Workforce Education Special Collection)

Workforce Instructors – Educators with the special expertise needed to provide instruction geared to the particular needs of employers, incumbent workers, and unions, as well as unemployed and under-employed individuals.

Workforce Intermediaries – Networks of individuals who work as brokers, facilitators, and/or interpreters to strengthen the connections and integration of workforce training and education systems to better meet the education and training needs of employers, workers, and communities. (PA WIN)

Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998 – Federal legislation designed to coordinate and streamline all components of the nation’s workforce development system, including employment, job training, education, and vocational rehabilitation services for youth (ages 14-21), adults, and dislocated workers. (PA WIN)

Workforce Investment Board (WIB) – The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) authorizes 1) a state WIB to act as a statewide WIA strategic policy planning and governing body and 2) local WIBs to act as oversight bodies of the activities of the participating agencies in a WIA region. (PA WIN)

Workforce Learning – see “Workforce Education”

Workplace Education – Adult basic and literacy education programs that are planned and delivered through business/education partnerships and provide customized work-related basic (or foundation) skills instruction to those already employed and in need of more advanced skills to maintain or advance in their jobs. (PA WIN)

Workplace Literacy – Skills needed to respond to literacy demands in the workplace, in order to perform job duties and apply on-the-job training. (Gowen as cited in Bates & Phelan, 2002).

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Bates, R., & Phelan, K. (2002). Characteristics of a globally competitive workforce. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 4(2), 121-132.

Bloom, M., & Lafleur, B. (1999). Turning skills into profit: Economic benefits of workplace education programs (Research report 1247-99-rr) [Electronic version]. New York: The Conference Board.

Bhola, H. S. (1990). Evaluating “Literacy for development” projects, programs and campaigns: Evaluation planning, design and implementation, and utilization of evaluation results. Hamburg, Germany: UNESCO Institute for Education; DSE [German Foundation for International Development].

Council for Advancement of Adult Literacy. (2002). Making the case: adult education & literacy: Key to America's future. New York: Council for Advancement of Adult Literacy.

Eye On Education. (no date). Glossary of Education Terms. Boston: WGBH TV.

Giesecke, J. & McNeil, B. (2004). Transitioning to the learning organization. Library Trends 53(14), 54.

Malhotra, Y. (1988).  Business process redesign: An overview. IEEE Engineering Management Review, 26(3). Available:

Miles, M. B. & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook. 2nd edition.  London: Sage Publications, Inc.

National Advisory Council on Adult Education. (1980). Terms, definitions, organizations and councils associated with adult learning. Washington, DC: Author.

NYS Governor's Office of Employee Relations. (No date). New York State Department of Civil Service/Governor's Office of Employee Relations Work Force and Succession Planning Guide Glossary. New York: Author. (Available:

PA WIN (Pennsylvania Workforce Improvement Network). (revised 2005). Glossary of workplace education terms. University Park, PA: Workplace Education Research Center. (Available:

Scorecard for Skills. (2003). Glossary of workplace education terms. Ottawa, ON, Canada: Conference Board of Canada. Retrieved February 2, 2005, from

Task force on adult education, & literacy to theVirginia Board of Education. (2001). Report and recommendations for improving literacy services in Virginia (Report). Richmond, VA: Author.

VA WIN (Virginia Workforce Improvement Network) at James Madison University.

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Glossary of Acronyms 

AAACE – American Association of Adult and Continuing Education

AAAE – American Association of Adult Education (AAAE/USA – of the USA)

AACC – American Association of Community Colleges

ABE – Adult Basic Education

ABLE – Adult Basic Learning Examination

ACE – American Council on Education

ACINET – America's Career Information Network - CareerOneStop

ACT – American College Testing (for WorkKeys)

ADA – Americans with Disabilities Act

AEA – Adult Education Act

AEFLA – Adult Education and Family Literacy Act of 1998

AEA/USA – Adult Education Association of the United States America

AFQT – Armed Forces Qualification Test

ALA – American Library Association

AMA – American Marketing Association

ANN – Adult Numeracy Network

ASE – Adult Secondary Education

ASTD – American Society for Training and Development

AVA – American Vocational Association

BESTBasic English Skills Test

BPR – Business Process Redesign

CAAL – Council for Advancement of Adult Literacy

CAL – Center for Applied Linguistics

CASAS – Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment System

CBAE – Competency-Based Adult Education

CBO – Community-Based Organization

CCC – Civilian Conservation Corps

CETA – Comprehensive Employment and Training Act

CEW – Center for Education and Work

COS – CareerOneStop

CRT – Criterion Referenced Tests

CWP – Center for Workforce Preparation - US Chamber of Commerce

DAEL – Division of Adult Education and Literacy

DOE – Department of Education

DOLETA – Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration

EDP – External Diploma Program

EFF – Equipped for the Future

EFL – Educational Functioning Level

EOA – Economic Opportunity Act

EPSS – Electronic Performance Support System

ESL – English as a Second Language

ESOL – English for Speakers of other Languages

ESOP – Employee Stock Option Program

ETA – Employment and Training Administration (DOLETA) of the Department of Labor

ETJSP – Employment, Training and Job Security Program

FBO – Faith-Based Organization

FEMA – Federal Emergency Management Agency

GAO – General Accounting Office

GED – General Education Development

G.I. Bill – Serviceman’s Readjustment Act

HHS – U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

HPO – High Performance Organization

IALS – International Adult Literacy Survey

IDEAIndividuals with Disabilities Education Act

IEP – Individualized Education Plan

ISO – International Standardization Organization

JAG – Jobs for American Graduates

JAN – Job Accommodation Network

JFF – Jobs for the Future

JIT – Job Instruction Training

JOBS – Job Opportunity in the Business Sector

JTPA – Job Training Partnership Act

KSAs – Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (or alternately, Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes)

L2 – Second or non-native language

LEALocal Educational Agency

LEPLimited English Proficiency

MDTA – Manpower Development and Training Act

MEP – Manufacturing Extension Partnership

MOU – Memorandum of Understanding

NAAL – National Assessment of Adult Literacy

NAEPDC – National Adult Education Professional Development Consortium

NAFTA – North American Free Trade Agreement

NALS – National Adult Literacy Survey

NAM – National Association of Manufacturers

NASSP – National Association of Secondary School Principals

NASWA – National Association of State Workforce Agencies

NASWBC – National Association of State Workforce Board Chairs

NAWB – National Association of Workforce Boards

NAWDP – National Association of Workforce Development Professionals

NCLBNo Child Left Behind Act of 2001

NCSALLNational Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy

NEA – National Education Association

NIFL – National Institute for Literacy

NLA – National Literacy Act of 1991

NRS – National Reporting System

NSSB – National Skills Standards Board

NWLP – National Workplace Literacy Demonstration Program

OECD – Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development

OJT – On-the-job training

O*NET – Occupational Information Network

OSHA – Occupational Safety & Health Administration

OTAN – Outreach and Technical Assistance Network (Requires free registration)

OVAEOffice of Vocational and Adult Education (US DOE)

PRWORA – Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act

ROI – Return on Investment

SCANS – Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills

STW – School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994

TABE – Test of Adult Basic Education

TANF Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

TESOLTeachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages

TQM – Total Quality Management (alternatively, Total Quality Movement)

TWA – The Workforce Alliance

TWI – Training Within Industry

USAFI – United States Armed Forces Institute

VAWIN – Virginia’s Workforce Improvement Network

VEA – Vocational Education Act

VEND – Vocational Education for National Defense program

VESL – Vocational English as a Second Language

VISTAVolunteers in Service to America

WEB – Workers Education Bureau

WEP – Workplace Education Programs

WIA – Workforce Investment Act

WIB – Workforce Investment Board

WIN – Workforce Innovation Networks

WPA – Works Project Administration

WTT – Workforce Tools of the Trade

WTW – Welfare to Work

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