Building a Learner-Centered Ecosystem

The time is now to forge new pathways between learning and work so that more workers can thrive.

How do we build a learner-centered ecosystem to connect education and work?

American workers will hold an average of 12 jobs by the time they retire — a number that is increasing as we live longer and technology changes our work. Many will need new skills as they navigate those transitions, but their options for education are overwhelming.

There are degrees and short-term programs. Over a million credentials. More than 4,000 colleges and universities from which to choose. And more than 2,000 job centers. But with no real way to know what their best option is, many will put off learning or drop out.

By building an ecosystem to better serve those furthest from economic mobility and opportunity, we will better serve all learners, especially adult learners at risk of being left behind by accelerating change in the workplace.


Five integrated elements are necessary for learner success: Transparent hiring practices which value skills learned from a job, not just a classroom; targeted education and training options; wraparound supports to help learners with their personal responsibilities; resources and tools for navigating complex education and work systems; and options that integrate learning and working.


Hear stories from today’s adult learners to better understand their aspirations, the barriers they face in learning and work, and the considerable assets and experiences they bring to the labor market.


Innovative solutions and organizations from around the country are already building elements of this learner-centered ecosystem. Some are creating new pathways into industries. Others are developing new approaches to work-based learning. Their examples provide lessons for how this ecosystem can be implemented today. Explore these organizations and discover inspiration for your work.