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A New Way Forward: CAEL Association Update (August 2019)

The EvoLLLution | A New Way Forward: CAEL Association Update (August 2019)
As the labor market continues to evolve, CAEL will play a critical role in establishing a collaborative ecosystem linking learners, employers and postsecondary institutions.

I’m delighted to announce a new partnership between CAEL and The EvoLLLution to deliver timely information on the latest advances related to serving adult working learners. When you consider the rapidly changing nature of the work our members face, it’s hard to imagine a more aptly named organization to collaborate with!

This partnership will provide CAEL members with fresh thinking twice a month in the form of a brief digital newsletter. The focus will be on lifelong learning and transforming traditional structures to better meet the needs of today’s working learners in communities, across industries, inside all postsecondary institutions.

CAEL itself has reimagined our role with all of you. We began as an organization that championed adult learners at a time when postsecondary education didn’t even acknowledge their existence. Today, the world has caught up to CAEL’s early vision. All sectors are attempting to address the needs of lifelong learners in a rapidly accelerating time of change. And none of us can “go it alone” in today’s complex economy.

Consider that in 1976, the average cost of tuition, room and board for a four-year institution was $2,187.[1] The overall life expectancy for Americans then was about 72 years. In 2016, average tuition for four-year institutions had risen to $15,512, while life expectancy was up to nearly 79.[2] Meanwhile, between 1980 and 2008, the percentage of private-sector U.S. workers who were covered by a defined-benefit pension decreased from 38% to 20%.[3] College costs have continued to soar, traditional pensions are vanishing, and many people can expect to work longer for a variety of reasons including their value to their employer, individual financial reasons, and a desire to remain involved in their field and community.

At the same time, the shelf-life of skills is shrinking. A recent Deloitte study found that the half-life of technical skills is only two years.[4] Further, they found that half of all roles staffed today will vanish within the next decade.[5]

But the diminishing staying power of skill sets isn’t just a problem for workers. More than half of executives worry that they won’t be able to find qualified employees.[6] This is already a fact in many industries, especially in the retail sector.

CAEL has a strong role to play in this new collaborative ecosystem, as you can see in CAEL’s new strategic plan, which we released earlier in 2019 and are in the process of executing.

When you review the strategic plan, you’ll note that our vision is still firmly rooted in the needs of the adult working learner, but we have shifted to a more inclusive, integrated approach—one that encourages collaboration, partnerships and alliances. Collaboration is important to CAEL and to our parent organization, Strada Education Network. Like CAEL, Strada works with partners in education, nonprofits, business and government to ensure a holistic, long-term view of student success that considers outcomes well beyond the classroom.

By viewing student success as a lifelong endeavor at the intersection of education and career, we can minimize the gap between so-called traditional and adult learners. We know the pace of change is unlikely to slow. If anything, it will accelerate. But a common destination prevails: rewarding careers for employees and a viable talent pipeline for employers as part of vibrant and inclusive communities. And the education-to-career cycle will be repeated many times across our longer lifespans.

At CAEL we will continue to provide new value to you, our members, on a regular basis. I personally hope that this partnership with The EvoLLLution will provide great value to you, and I would love to hear your feedback over time.

In the meantime,  I do hope you have saved the date for our fall conference, which will be held this year in Chicago from Nov. 6 to 8. The theme is “Plug In: Energize Adult Pathways to Success.”

Our conference brings together experts from across the adult learning and work ecosystem: postsecondary education, employers, nonprofits and workforce development. We are re-energizing and re-envisioning our conference to create an enhanced experience for you. Please do join us in Chicago to help guide what you need from CAEL now and in the future.

I’m excited by the work ahead and look forward to collaborating with all of you. Together we can make a tremendous difference in the lives of adult working learners.



[1] IES National Center for Education Statistics “Digest of Education Statistics Table 330.10” November, 2017,, accessed July 30, 2019.

[2] World Bank, Life Expectancy at Birth, Total for the United States [SPDYNLE00INUSA], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis,, accessed July 30, 2019.

[3] Barbara A Butrica, Howard M. Iams, Karen E. Smith, and Eric J. Toder “The Disappearing Defined Benefit Pension and Its Potential Impact on the Retirement Incomes of Baby Boomers” Social Security Bulletin 69, No. 3 (2009),, accessed July 30, 2019.

[4] Deloitte Future of Work 2017 Annual Report. October, 2017 Future_of_Work.pdf, accessed July 30, 2019.

[5] Ibid.

[6] JPMorgan Chase & Co 2019 Business Outlook: Optimism Continues with Signs of Caution, accessed July 30, 2019.


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