SCC reps attend national conference on strategies to help Baby Boomers finish degrees

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

From Shoreline Community College Communications

Shoreline Community College is one of several colleges across the country that is helping baby boomers get the degrees and credentials needed for the jobs of the future. The Plus 50 program at Shoreline offers courses to for people 50 years of age and older who want to - or are being required to return to work or change careers.

David Cunningham, Dean, Workforce Education and Donna Walthers, Program Assistant, Job Center at Shoreline Community College joined representatives from colleges from across the country at the fourth annual conference for the Plus 50 Initiative in Washington, D.C. earlier this month. The 45 representatives from 28 colleges discussed strategies that have worked well in their Plus 50 programs as well as shared resources that have supported program success at the two-day event organized by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

Cunningham said the amount of information and exchange of ideas that Plus 50 representatives shared at the conference was very good.  “We came back with a lot of ideas to expand and improve our program,” Cunningham said.

One of the ideas that Cunningham and Walthers plan to do is to improve and expand Shoreline’s program including providing lectures by college faculty members on a variety of subjects with fees going toward instructors’ salaries and student scholarship opportunities.

“Many faculty are experts on a number of subjects,” he said. Cunningham gave an example of the symposium on International Humanitarian Assistance or the American Health Care Reform discussions through the Global Affairs Center. “And lots of people could use scholarships.”

Cunningham said he is also thinking about creating some kind of professional development opportunities for instructors that provide knowledge about the Plus 50 population to support their teaching efforts.

The Plus 50 Completion Strategy aims to help plus 50 workers who are still struggling to recover from the economic recession that sparked record unemployment. According to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 30 percent of the nation’s fastest-growing occupations will be filled by people who have a postsecondary education credential.

But getting those credentials can be challenging, especially if an individual is returning to the classroom after spending decades in the workforce. Plus 50 adults must re-cultivate study habits left behind years ago and navigate an admissions system designed for high school seniors. And most importantly, they must decide on a path of study that will lead to a completed degree or credential and a new career.

The Plus 50 Completion Strategy is funded with a four-year grant from Lumina Foundation. The grant builds on the successful Plus 50 Initiative launched by AACC in 2008 and funded at that time by The Atlantic Philanthropies. Support from The Atlantic Philanthropies augments the current Plus 50 Completion Strategy.

The Plus 50 Initiative at AACC has focused much of its efforts for the last three years on training and re-training programs to get unemployed older adults back on the job.

Research data support the value of college programs assisting baby boomers. An independent evaluation of AACC’s Plus 50 Initiative found that 89 percent of students agreed that plus 50 work force training helped them acquire new job skills and 72 percent attributed landing a job to such training.

The Plus 50 Completion Strategy program at Shoreline Community College is part of a national effort. Earlier this year, AACC joined five other national organizations to sign a public commitment 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.


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