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Eleven colleges are set to join a national program designed to train 10,000 baby boomers over the next three years for new jobs in healthcare, education and social service.
The goal of the Plus 50 Encore Completion Program—offered by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) in cooperation with its member colleges—is to partner with 100 colleges in offering special training programs to help students age 50 and older earn certificates or degrees in the growing fields of healthcare, education or social services. The program is funded through a $3.2-million grant from the Deerbrook Charitable Trust to AACC.
The newly selected colleges are:
Reaching more students
In addition to grant funds to augment training programs, the participating colleges will have access to toolkits and extensive marketing resources to reach out more effectively to older students. They’ll also benefit from the advice and support of college staff at other community colleges that have successfully implemented programs for older learners and understand the unique needs of this population.
“Baby boomers are not like traditional college students. We find that colleges need to adapt how they operate to support their job training needs and educational success,” said Mary Sue Vickers, director for the Plus 50 Initiative at AACC.
Those adaptations might include adjusting registration systems to accommodate students who don’t have electronic transcripts, tailoring career counseling to the needs of older adults who need to re-train quickly and get back in the job market, forging partnerships with employers and community organizations and educating faculty about baby boomer learning styles. As part of its work, AACC will develop an implementation manual with guidelines and promising practices for serving the plus-50 population.
A growing need
Baby boomers have increasingly turned to community colleges to train for new careers. Since 2007, adults age 50 and over have struggled in a job market plagued by record unemployment. Many find they must re-invent their careers and update their skills if they are going to get hired. Careers in health care, education and social services also appeal to baby boomers, who often have an interest in civic engagement.
The program expects to add another 89 colleges in 2012 and early 2013 that will help it reach 10,000 baby boomer students by 2015, according to Vickers. Grant funding applications for AACC member colleges are now available.
The 100 colleges involved in the Plus 50 Encore Completion Program will build on the success of AACC’s Plus 50 Initiative. Since 2008, the initiative has focused its efforts on training programs to get unemployed older adults back on the job.
An independent evaluation of AACC’s Plus 50 Initiative found that 89 percent of students agreed that college work force training helped them acquire new job skills, and 72 percent attributed landing a job to such training.
The Plus 50 Encore Completion program supports AACC’s work to increase the number of students who finish degrees, certificates and other credentials. In April 2010, AACC committed alongside other higher education organizations, to promote the development and implementation of policies, practices and institutional cultures that will produce 50 percent more students with high quality degrees and certificates by 2020.
Lumina Foundation currently funds the participation of 18 community colleges in the Plus 50 Completion Strategy, which is helping baby boomers complete degrees or credentials. AACC’s Plus 50 Initiative began with support from the Atlantic Philanthropies and originally involved 15 colleges, and then expanded to 32 more colleges.
Copyright ©2012 American Association of Community Colleges