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PCC Part of Coalition to Train Baby Boomers

PCC was the only North Carolina college recently selected to participate in a nationwide initiative to retrain baby boomers for new careers.

WINTERVILLE—Pitt Community College was recently chosen as one of 11 colleges to join the Plus 50 Encore Completion Program, a national initiative designed to train 10,000 baby boomers over the next three years for new jobs in health care, education and social service.

The program is offered by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) in cooperation with its member colleges and will ultimately comprise 100 colleges offering special training programs for students age 50 and older. It is being funded through a $3.2 million grant from the Deerbrook Charitable Trust.

In addition to grant funds to augment training programs, participating colleges gain access to toolkits and extensive marketing resources to effectively reach out to students 50 and older. 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 population’s unique needs.

“Baby boomers are not like traditional college students,” said Mary Sue Vickers, director of the Plus 50 Initiative at AACC. “We find that colleges need to adapt how they operate to support their job training needs and educational success.”

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.

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 re-invent their careers and update skills in order to be hired. Careers in health care, education and social services also appeal to baby boomers, who often have an interest in civic engagement.

Vickers says the program expects to add an additional 89 colleges by early 2013 in order to reach 10,000 baby boomer students by 2015.

PCC and the other colleges involved with the Plus 50 Encore Completion Program will build upon the success of AACC’s Plus 50 Initiative. Since 2008, that initiative has centered 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 who took part in the program agreed that college workforce 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 joined other higher education organizations in committing 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.

In addition to PCC, which was the only college from North Carolina to be chosen, other schools selected to participate in the Plus 50 Encore program are: Arapahoe Community College (Littleton, Colo.), Black River Technical College (Pocahontas, Ark.), Broome Community College (Binghamton, N.Y.), John Wood Community College (Quincy, Ill.), Lansing Community College (Lansing, Mich.), Owens State Community College (Perrysburg, Ohio), San Jacinto Community College District (Pasadena, Texas), Southside Virginia Community College (Alberta, Va.), Waubonsee Community College (Aurora, Ill.) and West Virginia University at Parkersburg (W.Va.).