A3 Book section, Chapters in research books
Upskill America? : The implications of neoliberal discourses in educational programs for migrant learners (2021)

Ennser-Kananen, J., & Vanek, J. (2021). Upskill America? : The implications of neoliberal discourses in educational programs for migrant learners. In M. A. Brown (Ed.), International Perspectives on Inclusion within Society and Education (pp. 42-56). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003016090-5

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editors: Ennser-Kananen, Johanna; Vanek, Jen

Parent publication: International Perspectives on Inclusion within Society and Education

Parent publication editors: Brown, Mabel Ann

ISBN: 978-0-367-85971-8

eISBN: 978-1-003-01609-0

Publication year: 2021

Pages range: 42-56

Number of pages in the book: 194

Publisher: Routledge

Place of Publication: Abingdon

Publication country: United Kingdom

Publication language: English

DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003016090-5

Publication open access: Not open

Publication channel open access:


In the US, adult literacy and English language programs have long had a functional framing, making use of public funds to acknowledge and support a range of learning goals. Such programs have fallen short of providing educational opportunities, because they are underfunded. At the same time, the rapid pace of innovation and high levels of employment create an imperative for adults who have been traditionally left out of the work/economy to become employable. Hence, crisis discourse around “skills gaps” and the need to upskill is common. This chapter understands such processes as part of neoliberal ideologies and analyzes the discourses around “upskilling” in two policy documents, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI)’s English Plus Integration Shifting the Instructional Paradigm for Immigrant Adult Learners to Support Integration Success and the National Immigration Forum (NIF)’s Upskilling New Americans: Innovative English Training for Career Advancement. Our analysis illustrates how discourse in these texts provides a glimpse of the priorities that influence learning, some of which may create vulnerability and disenfranchisement for adult migrants with emerging print literacy. More specifically, our findings speak to the different ways adult learners are viewed and the problematic prioritization of employers as main beneficiaries of upskilling initiatives. We thereby shed light on what it means, when educational opportunities are framed as “training” versus “learning” and what the implications of such discourses are for the inclusion/exclusion of adult learners in the US.

Keywords: immigrants; adult education; labour market training; labour market policy; neoliberalism; social inclusion; discourse analysis

Contributing organizations

Ministry reporting: Yes

Reporting Year: 2021

JUFO rating: 3

Last updated on 2022-19-08 at 19:33