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STLCC Enhances National Effort to Help Train Older Learners

July 25, 2011

Degrees and credentials are needed for many of the jobs of the future, and today’s baby boomers can turn to community colleges for help.

St. Louis Community College staff members who are working to help unemployed baby boomers finish degrees and education credentials so they can get hired recently attended the American Association of Community Colleges’ (AACC) fourth annual conference for the Plus 50 Initiative in Washington, D.C.

Joanie Friend, director of enrollment management, Christy Jaeger, associate director of continuing education, and Heather Ellison, manager of continuing education programs, and colleagues at other Plus 50 institutions discussed the standards of excellence found in exemplary Plus 50 programs at community colleges, identified strategies that have worked at other colleges, and learned about resources to improve college programs for baby boomers.

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, 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 work force. STLCC staff are reaching out to baby boomers with a designated Plus 50 concierge at each of the four campuses to assist students in navigating the enrollment, education and completion process.

“One issue we discussed at the conference was the need for plus-50 students to have a single point of contact to answer questions and make referrals when working through the college process,” said Ellison, who added that the college hopes to have these resource people identified and trained by September.

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 has focused much of its efforts for the last three years on training and retraining 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 Plus 50 workforce training helped them acquire new job skills, and 72 percent attributed landing a job to such training.

For more information about STLCC’s Plus 50 program, contact Heather Ellison at hellison@stlcc.edu or 314-984-7842.