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What is IET?

Separate? No. Integrate with IET!
By Leecy Wise
April 2019

IET is the “new kid” on the Adult Education block after President Obama signed WIOA (The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act) into law in 2014.  What is IET? Is it a new concept? Is it hard to implement? The following represents a personal perspective on implementing IET to satisfy recent WIOA legislation.

According to WIOA, IET (integrated Education and Training) “is a three-part service approach that provides: 1) adult education and literacy activities concurrently and contextually with 2) workforce preparation activities and 3) workforce training for a specific occupation or occupational cluster for the purpose of educational and career advancement.” (WIOA Title II, 2016, and IET Training Guide, n.d.)  The part of that definition that states “concurrently and contextually” represents the integration being asked of programs that receive WIOA funding. 

If you’ve been in adult education for awhile, you know that integrated, contextualized, content-based, interdisciplinary or intra-disciplinary instruction strategies have been promoted for a very long time among adults. We veteran educators were giving workshops and developing curriculum on those approaches back in the late 80’s and early 90’s! In fact, the concept itself was advocated by Malcolm Knowles, the “father” of andragogy! 

Adults...tend to have a perspective of immediacy of application toward most of their learning… They tend, therefore, to enter an educational activity in a problem-centered frame of mind...Because adult learners tend to be problem-centered in their orientation to learning, the appropriate organizing principle for sequences of adult learning is problem areas, not subjects. For example, instead of offering courses on Composition I and Composition II, first focusing on grammar and second on writing style, andragogic practice would put in their place "Writing Better Business Letters" and "Writing Short Stories." (Knowles, 1970)

What is new in the WIOA definition is the “T” part of IET:  Training. Federally funded adult educators are being encouraged to invest time and resources to provide actual job training within a career pathway as a continuum to education and literacy activities that are contextualized or integrated into workforce preparation.

Integrated Learning
The practice of requiring isolated and meaningless memorization designed to run students through standardized tests has hopefully gone, never to return. We recognize that adults, in particular, do not learn without a context to which they can relate. More than a term, the “new kid on the block” is really the adult learner, who is the focus of integrated learning. ‘‘Research indicates that using an interdisciplinary or integrated curriculum provides opportunities for more relevant, less fragmented, and more stimulating experiences for learners’’ (Furner & Kumar, 2007; p.186).

Integrated Education and Training (IET) is a promising career pathways approach. It “helps educationally underprepared adults pair foundational skill-building with workforce preparation and training in in-demand occupations. Through IET programs, adults seek goal-oriented, relevant, practical knowledge. People with family and work responsibilities can offset the opportunity costs of education when IET truly leads to educational and economic mobility.” (Mortrude, 2017; p.1)

To better grasp the concept implemented in IET, it might help to start with the more traditionally-accepted concept of integrated education. What is WIOA asking programs to integrate prior to having students enter workplace training? The definition states, “a service approach that provides adult education and literacy activities concurrently and contextuallywith workforce preparation activities.”

The adult education and literacy activities that WIOA is asking programs to integrate with workforce preparation are as follow:

I like to refer to these activities as primarily educational activities.

The workforce-preparation activities into which those academic activities are asked to be integrated, are as follow:

The activities listed in both WIOA categories reflect to a great extent the content in the report initiated by President Bush in the late nineties, "What Work Requires of Schools: A SCANS (Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills) Report for America 2000."  The report defines the skills that young people must have to hold a “decent job and earn a decent living,” as outlined in its foundation skills (basic skills, thinking skills, and personal qualities) and the workplace competencies the workplace requires of workers.

How are the listed education, literacy, and workforce-preparation activities best integrated? In my view, artistically, meaningfully, respectfully, engagingly, and with differentiation. Notice that workforce preparation activities do not necessarily target a specific occupation but are designed to reinforce skills that provide groundwork for succeeding in later specific job training along the steps of a career ladder.

Perhaps a garden might provide a helpful image to represent the integration process. Think of planting seeds as representing education and literacy activities. If you simply drop seeds indiscriminately, they are not likely to grow, just as dropping academic activities (i.e. grammar, fractions, prefixes, ratios, thesis statements) before most students doesn’t lead to much.

On the other hand, if you creatively and selectively plant seeds into fertile ground, you are very likely to have a great harvest. Drop those academic seeds in the fertile ground of work preparation matched to student interests and goals, and you have the promise of students engaging in job training later along selected career paths.

What are instructors of adults being asked to integrate in each student? They are being asked to integrate academic skills, the seeds of learning, with job preparation skills, the ground that nurtures student engagement for growing those seeds.
Integrated instruction makes learning meaningful. It mirrors how the brain works. It engages multiple learning styles. It encourages breadth and depth in learning. It makes connections. It makes sense. Situations from life outside of school help students to think and solve problems that are real. Students of all ages are more likely to invest mental energy in academic applications that have meaning for them. That extra effort produces positive results. (“Integrated Instruction: What It Is, Why It Is Important and How It Works!” Career Communications, Inc.,” p.2, n.d.)

Job Training

Training represents the last step in WIOA’s three-step IET process. Once students have developed IE, they are then ready to be placed in a career ladder that will encourage them to develop specific occupational performance skills that promise them a sustainable income doing what they love or hope to love as American workers.

A number of specific training activities are listed in WIOA’s law, section 134 (c) (3) (D), to meet this last step of ITE, to include the following:
1. Occupational skills training, including training for nontraditional employment
2. On-the-job training
3. Incumbent worker training
4. Programs that combine workplace training with related instruction, which may include cooperative education programs
5. Training programs operated by the private sector
6. Skill upgrading and retraining
7. Entrepreneurial training
8. Transitional jobs
9. Job readiness training and adult-education and literacy activities, as described above
10. Customized training conducted with a commitment by an employer or group of employers to employ an individual upon successful completion of the training

IET is a stepladder in itself, designed to accelerate the rate in which adults acquire the critical skills they need to succeed not only academically but in the workplace. As anyone can imagine, successful IET programs require a great deal of planning and collaboration among many different entities that provide services to adults. Those “next steps” on the ladder represent another level of the topic, which is prolifically addressed through WIOA-related resources that continue to grow to serve adult education programs, their instructors, and their learners. We have only just begun!


Furner, J.M. and Kumar, D.D. The Mathematics and Science Integration Argument: A Stand for Teacher Education. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science & Technology Education, 3. 2007: 185-189.

Integrated Instruction: What It Is, Why It Is Important and How It Works! Career Communications, Inc., Publishers of American Careers Educational Programs, n.d. Retrieved from http://www.carcom.com/downloads/Integrated_Instruction.pd.

Integrated Education and Training (IET) Guide. 34 CFR, Part 463, Subpart D (LINCS Resource Collection. Retrieved from https://lincs.ed.gov/sites/default/files/IETchecklist508FINAL_0.pdf)

Knowles, Malcom (1970). The Modern Practice of Adult Education: From Pedagogy to Andragogy. Cambridge Book Company.

Mortrude, Judy. (2017, April . Integrated Education and Training: A Career Pathways Policy & Practice. Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success. Retrieved from https://www.clasp.org/sites/default/files/public/resources-and-publications/publication-1/Integrated-Education-and-Training-A-Career-Pathways-Policy-Practice.pdf.

What Work Requires of Schools (2018, May). U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved from https://wdr.doleta.gov/SCANS/whatwork/.

WIOA Title II Adult Education & Family Literacy. CLASP Opportunities for Action (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.clasp.org/sites/default/files/public/resources-and-publications/publication-1/WIOA-Title-II-memo.pdf

NOTE: Contact the author: leecywise@gmail.com