The new ACT Foundation officially launched in Austin, Texas, with a 24-hour interactive journey that started with an official kick off at noon on Thursday, October 3, and ended at noon on Friday, October 4.
The journey launched on the premise that a vibrant National Learning Economy is needed for our nation’s people to achieve both career success and life satisfaction. At the conclusion, a discussion among business and industry association leaders, foundations, education and workforce strategists and innovators envisioned the next steps for building the National Learning Economy.
Dr. Parminder K. Jassal, ACT Foundation executive director, introduces the National Learning Economy during the foundation’s official launch earlier this month in Austin, Texas.
“The whole launch journey was incredibly energizing,” said Jennifer Horn-Frasier, ACT Foundation director of social impact.
The ACT Foundation is seeking to improve economic and learning outcomes for working learners, specifically young, low-income working learners.
“It’s increasingly rare for people to have the luxury to take a year or two or four to go to college or through some other training program without worrying about having to work,” said Dr. Parminder K. Jassal, ACT Foundation executive director. “We want to create a National Learning Economy in which no one has to choose between learning and working, but can instead do both effectively while supporting themselves and their families. We need a new approach. We believe people should be valued for what they can do versus where and how they acquired their skills, knowledge, and competence.”
The ACT Foundation isn’t looking to throw out the old system of high school then college then a career, but to “reimagine and catalyze” the working and learning ecosystems and help empower people to choose their own journeys to success.
“We need to reengineer education and talent development so individuals can access a portfolio of learning options anytime, anywhere, to increase their performance that will lead to success in careers and life,” said Jassal, who was hired a year ago as the foundation’s executive director.
Several small groups interacted during the ACT Foundation launch. Here, John Corrigan (third from left), ACT vice president, meets with a group that includes Marcy Drummond (far left) of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Gary Hoachlander (second from left) of ConnectEd: The California Center for College and Career.
The ACT Foundation was formed and funded by the ACT Board of Directors in fall 2009, coinciding with ACT’s 50th anniversary celebration. The intention, said Jon Whitmore, ACT chief executive officer, was to facilitate initiatives that support the ACT mission of helping people achieve education and workplace success.
“Businesses small and large recognize that learning doesn’t stop at the schoolhouse door or on the college campus,” Whitmore said. “We face intense competition in the world that will continue to erode our standard of living unless we help more Americans reach their full potential.”
Added Jassal, who was a key player in The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Postsecondary Success initiative for low-income young adults: “We’re committed to activating and empowering working learners and amplifying their voices, as we work together to build a National Learning Economy. We want to strengthen the connection between industry needs and learning experiences to create a culture that recognizes and rewards increased performance resulting from diverse learning experiences.”
The ACT Foundation used unconventional means for getting participants from one learning setting to another across Austin, Texas. Here, Pamela Tate (left) of the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, and Van Ton-Quinlivan of California Community Colleges, catch a ride on a pedicab.
The Foundation launched in Austin, where it is headquartered, and brought together 140 leaders from various sectors and perspectives. The leaders traveled together to different learning settings across Austin to hear from entrepreneurs, educators, business leaders, researchers, and learners themselves.
“Together with outstanding thinkers, innovators, and practitioners, we successfully embarked upon a new journey with a thoughtful road map to impact the social and economic culture, specifically our learning and working systems,” Jassal said. “Although we have an initial road map, we also know that we have to be constantly open to integrating changing ideas and practice so we can adapt to new realities and transition to a performance-driven economy.”
The Foundation’s goal is an ambitious one, Horn-Frasier acknowledged. The number of people who were engaged in the launch, though, is indicative of the void that the Foundation intends to fill.
“It’s a tremendous coming together of minds from all different sectors,” said Horn-Frasier, whose own enthusiasm for the initiative prompted her in August to move from her 13-plus year career in workforce development at ACT to work full time for the Foundation.
“It’s going to be very, very exciting,” she said.