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News on practice and policy affecting internationally trained immigrants and refugees

Serving Internationally Trained Professionals in AEFLA-Funded Programs

Wednesday July 12, 2023 | by Jessie Stadd

Immigrants working in a corporate setting

Internationally trained professionals (ITPs) – a population that has long been served by adult education programs – bring many assets that range from credentials earned in other countries to fluency and literacy in multiple languages, professional work experience, and experience with building social capital. How can adult education programs best support and leverage these unique assets?

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) helps job seekers access employment, education, training, and support services to succeed in the labor market. Title II, the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA), provides federal funding for adult education programs. AEFLA formula grants are allocated to state adult education agencies which administer subgrantees to local adult education programs.

English learners, including ITPs, are one of the core populations served through the AEFLA system.

Nationally, between July 2021 and June 2022, almost 11 percent of AEFLA-funded program participants, or 98,895 individuals, have a non-U.S. post-secondary or professional degree.[1] ITPs served by adult education programs take part in the following language and workforce development programming:

  • English language acquisition instruction, from basic to advanced levels
  • Integrated English Literacy and Civics Education (IELCE), integrates English language instruction with instruction on the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and civic participation
  • Integrated Education and Training (IET), integrates adult education and literacy instruction, workforce preparation activities, and workforce integration

The Enhancing Access for Refugees and New Americans (EARN) project, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) recently released a spotlight, Serving ITPs in IELCE Activities, that describes practices for serving ITPs in adult education. The spotlight is intended to help adult educators at all levels—state, program, and classroom—learn more about ITPs and how best to serve them through adult education programming, including IELCE activities. Practices for serving ITPs at the state, program, and instructional level are summarized in the graphic below. The spotlight also includes examples of the practices in action.

Practices for Serving ITPs in Adult Education

Graphic showing State, Program and Advisory practices to provide support to ITPsFor example, many ITPs participating in IET programs would benefit from a credential evaluation as part of their career development (one of the program practices shown above). Often, credential evaluations may be supported by adult education programs using state or general funds. But the spotlight highlights how AEFLA funds can be used for credential evaluations under specific circumstances, such as when the degree or credential to be evaluated is relevant to the IET program that a student will participate in. For example, if an ITP who was trained as a nurse in their home country is enrolled in a licensed practical nursing IET, their nursing degree has clear relevance to the IET and, if applied, could help the participant reenter the nursing profession more quickly. AEFLA funds could be used to support a credential evaluation in this example. States may issue guidance or policy that restricts this use, so local programs should first check with their state adult education agency.

OCTAE’s Program Memo 19-2 provides guidance on the use of AEFLA funds to pay for the evaluation of certificates and credentials.

Adult education programs serving ITPs may want to review the spotlight to learn more about the identified practices, explore the resources and organizations listed, and share with collaborators and colleagues to think about how to apply these practices. If adult education programs can better identify and serve ITPs in adult education, ITPs may be able to move more quickly through their programming to reenter the workforce in their chosen fields.

Enhancing Access for Refugees and New Americans is an initiative of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education. This initiative develops and delivers technical assistance to assist adult educators in designing and implementing IELCE/IET activities that promote overall immigrant integration and inclusion.


[1] Program Year 2021 NRS Table 6.

Jessie Stadd is the RTI International and Enhancing Access for Refugees and New Americans Project Director.