PERRYSBURG TOWNSHIP, OH (Toledo News Now) – Owens Community College has been chosen, along with 10 other academic institutions throughout the county, to participate in a national program designed to train 10,000 baby boomers. The training will take place over the next three years for new jobs in health care, education and social services.
The program is offered by the American Association of Community Colleges in cooperation with its member colleges and will ultimately comprise 100 colleges with special training programs for students ages 50 and up. The Plus 50 Encore Completion Program is funded with a $3.2 million grant to AACC provided by Deerbrook Charitable Trust.
"Owens Community College is honored to be chosen as one of the few community colleges in the county to participate in the American Association of Community Colleges' Plus 50 Encore Completion Program," said Dr. Michael Bankey, Owens' associate vice president of Workforce and Community Services. "Education opens doors to endless career possibilities. The college looks forward to working with the American Association of Community Colleges and local community organizations in developing an educational program that meets the needs of baby boomers throughout the northwest Ohio region."
Other selected colleges are:
-Arapahoe Community College (Littleton, CO)
-Black River Technical College (Pocahontas, AR)
-Broome Community College (Binghamton, NY)
-John Wood Community College (Quincy, IL)
-Lansing Community College (Lansing, MI)
-Pitt Community College (Winterville, NC)
-San Jacinto Community College District (Pasadena, TX)
-Southside Virginia Community College (Alberta, VA)
-Waubonsee Community College (Aurora, IL)
-West Virginia University at Parkersburg (Parkersburg, WV)
In addition to grant funds, the participating colleges gain access to thousands of dollars in marketing materials, such as toolkits and training webinars, that will make the work of reaching out to students age 50 and over much easier. They will also benefit from the advice and support of staff at other community colleges that have successfully implemented programs for older learners and understand their unique needs.
"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," explained Mary Sue Vickers, director for the Plus 50 Initiative at AACC.
Baby boomers have increasingly turned to community colleges for help training for new careers. Since 2007, adults age 50 and older have struggled in a job market plagued by record unemployment. Many find they must reinvent 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.
"I think a lot of people my age can benefit from going back to school," said Jolee Yanez.
Yanez is 60 years old and is a college student.
"I'm older than most of my professors, which is a hoot, but I love it.," said Yanez.
She is just one of many in the 50+ age group that never had a chance to get the schooling or training they wanted.
"Back in the 70s you got out of high school, you got married and you had children, and you didn't really further your education," explained Yanez.
Whether it is a similar situation or a layoff from a job they have worked for years, there are people out there who want to work but need the right skills. That is why representatives at Owens Community College said they are ready to be a part of the program. They said the current main focus is letting people know help is out there.
For now, Yanez has been working part-time at the Honey Baked Ham counter in The Andersons. She said balancing work with school is difficult, but is one of the best decisions she has made.
"It's a lot of work going to school full-time, having a job, taking care of your family, and then trying to have a so-called ‘social life'. But it is so worth it," said Yanez.
Yanez said she is glad to hear others her age will be encouraged to do the same.
Vickers said the program expects to add an additional 89 colleges in 2012 and early 2013 that will help it reach 10,000 baby boomer students by 2015. Grant funding applications for AACC member colleges are available now.
The 100 colleges involved with 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 in the job market.
An independent evaluation of AACC's Plus 50 Initiative found that 89 percent of students agreed that college workforce training helped them acquire new job skills. Additionally, 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.
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