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February 1, 2023

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Since its founding in 1974, the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) has focused on improving education-to-career pathways for adult learners. At the center of that commitment is meeting adult learners where they are to help them get where they aspire to be. We are partnering with CAEL to host the Learning Summit for Postsecondary Education and Workforce Development Professionals to increase collaboration and strengthen workforce development, education, training and career initiatives. Below, Christine Carpenter, senior vice president of engagement for CAEL, tells us the about the important work they are doing to change the workforce and education landscape for adult learners.  

Can you tell me more about the programs you offer?  

CAEL was founded on the revolutionary principle that not only should we meet adult learners where they are, but also recognize the value of the experiences they have gained in getting there. Credit for prior learning (CPL) remains core to our work to improve equitable educational outcomes. CPL enables new pathways to postsecondary credentials and allows students to attain their academic and professional goals more quickly by building on what they already know and can do. It also saves students time and money and benefits institutions that offer it. That’s why much of our work involves helping educators incorporate CPL into their programs, from technology solutions to free resources. In addition to CPL, we offer many complementary approaches to achieving adult learning excellence, including original research, technical assistance, program appraisals and diagnostics, and other capacity building engagement 

Why is workforce development important to your organization’s mission?  

CAEL has always had a focus on adult learners. The concept of workforce development never felt alien, or even apart, from our mission. With the accelerating pace of change in education and employment, workforce development is more important than ever. Students and employers expect academic credentials to be accurate proxies of work-relevant competencies. For that to be the case, educators and employers must be on the same page. That’s why CAEL’s role of being an “honest broker” that aligns learning and work is so critical–not just to adult learners, talent pipelines and college recruiters, but to the equitable and sustainable economic growth that their communities need to thrive. 

Any partnership highlights you’d like to share?  

Forging and sustaining diverse, cross-sector partnerships is at the heart of our mission to engage educators, employers and community leaders. Only through such collaboration can we align learning and work so that adult learners have access to navigate lifelong learning and career pathways that fuel economic mobility and community prosperity.  

For example, CAEL is leading a national project funded by a $15.7 million grant from the Truist Foundation. The Where It Starts: Build Better Careers initiative, which launched last month, will engage leadership in the financial services industry, workforce development and postsecondary education to develop strategies on collaborating to meet the intersecting needs of workers, learners and employers.  

CAEL is also leading a partnership among community colleges, high schools and regional employers to align education and employment and better serve adult learners and other underrepresented students in seven persistent-poverty counties within the Mississippi River delta region of Arkansas and Mississippi. The Advancing Delta Talent initiative will engage employers in expanding industries to create pathways to rewarding career opportunities for workers affected by employment losses in contracting industries.  

CAEL also manages two longstanding national industry-education partnerships—the Energy Providers Coalition for Education (EPCE) and the National Alliance for Communications, Technology, Education and Learning (NACTEL). These collaboratives create industry-validated online education and training that positions adult learners for successful careers.  

What else do you want the community to know about CAEL?  

The CAEL community is part of your community! Our collaborative approach to ecosystem partnerships begins with our growing and diversifying membership, which offers expertise, resources and innovative solutions to help adult learners access and prevail along the education and employment pathways that propel equitable economic mobility. CAEL membership provides multiple opportunities to network and learn such as its annual conference, frequent webinars, an online community platform, job aids and toolkits, and diverse professional development and training offerings. CAEL members represent an extensive community of stakeholders working to build new ecosystems and transform traditional structures to better meet the needs of today’s adult learners in communities across industries and among postsecondary learning providers. 

Interested in joining CAEL or exploring other opportunities to collaborate? Visit to sign up for updates, or email us at 

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