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Focus on acclaimed I-BEST program for Adult Literacy Week


Edmonds College celebrates Adult Literacy Week Oct. 18-24 in Washington state and its role in educating adults to attain better skills and better jobs.

In turn, students play a role in building a better Washington. During Adult Literacy Week, Edmonds CC invites the public to find out more about one of its innovative state-funded programs — I-BEST, Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training.

Join us for an I-BEST Showcase featuring a panel of students and their instructors, 3-5 p.m., Tues., Oct. 20 in Snohomish Hall 304A. See how this program works locally serving more than 300 students at Edmonds CC since 2007.

I-BEST has attracted national attention because of how it successfully combines basic and career skills classes to ensure that students not only complete college, but are competitive in the workforce from the moment they graduate.

The state’s I-BEST program was cited as an example of the kind of innovative training that makes for a great investment in education in the White House council of economic advisors report, “Preparing the Workers of Today for the Jobs of Tomorrow,” and in remarks on higher education by President Obama. The program was noted for its proven record of both boosting graduation rates and preparing workers for careers. It fills a critical need as the United States is facing a shortage of 14 million workers with college-level skills, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Edmonds College’s I-BEST program allows students, in as little as three months, to earn a certificate of completion in these fields: Allied Health, Computers, Electronics and Networks, Construction Industry Training, Medical Office Clerk, and Family Support Studies.

It’s a growing program which has received the support of local employers and business leaders. In 2008-2009, I-BEST served twice as many students as in the previous year (130 students up from 56). A grant from the Snohomish County Workforce Development Council (WDC) in 2008-2009 provided funding for more basic skills students to enter I-BEST classes and train for jobs. By the end of spring quarter 2009, of the students funded by the WDC: 99 were in I-BEST classes, 52 had earned certificates and 73 continued on to higher education.

In addition, Verizon Foundation helped establish Edmonds College’s Volunteer Literacy Program in 2007, which trains and supports volunteer tutors who help improve the English and math skills of adults in ESL and basic skills classes at the college.

Verizon Foundation will present a third $15,000 grant to the program at the I-BEST showcase during Adult Literacy Week, bringing its support for the program to $45,000 over the past three years. The grant supports the college’s growing volunteer tutoring program, which now has more than 40 volunteers. Volunteer tutors commit two hours per week for a minimum of three months.

Together, Edmonds College’s adult literacy programs serve more than 2,200 students in English as a Second Language, Adult Basic Education, GED Preparation, and I-BEST classes. The programs support adults who are motivated to improve their skills so that they can gain the qualifications and experience necessary to continue their education and obtain higher-paying jobs.

The 2,200 students served by adult literacy programs at Edmonds CC annually:

  • Come from 47 countries of origin;
  • Range in age from 18 to 82;
  • Are 60 percent female and 40 percent male;
  • Have varied levels of prior education from limited to Ph.D. degrees;
  • Tend to be employed and have family responsibilities; and
  • Are served by 40 instructors and more than 40 volunteers.

How you can support adult literacy, help your neighbors, and strengthen the local workforce and economy:

  • Fund a scholarship for students transitioning from adult basic education to college-level programs. Call the Edmonds College Foundation at 425.640.1274.
  • Provide an internship for adult basic education students. Call the college’s Career Action Center at 425.640.1256.
  • Join Edmonds College’s adult basic education advisory board and help guide and strengthen the college’s programs. Share your expertise about the skills and knowledge students will need to succeed in today’s job market. Call Dean of Developmental Education Karen Johnson at 425.640.1393.
  • Become a tutor with the college’s Volunteer Literacy Program. Commit two hours per week for three months to help adults improve their reading, math, and computer skills. Training and support are provided. Call Program Coordinator Nancy Strom at 425.640.1032 or email nancy.strom@edmonds.edu.

Find out more

I-BEST at Edmonds College