Community colleges are developing methods that are efficient and economical—both in terms of time and money—for mid-life adult students to get the education and skills they need. Challenged by the economy and the needs of job seekers, our institutions are designing programs and credentials that help adult students retool their skill sets and reposition themselves for high-quality jobs. Updating knowledge and skills for a changing job market is particularly important for students over age 50—part of a population that is increasingly remaining in the workforce longer, either by choice or out of necessity.
As part of our colleges’ ongoing commitment to meet the needs of students at every stage of life, the American Association of Community Colleges is partnering with the American Council on Education and others to pilot Maps to Credentials, a three-year project that will help colleges design and implement credential road maps for student veterans. Using ACE credit recommendations for military occupations and training, and incorporating Council for Adult and Experiential Learning prior-learning assessment guidance and methods, the project will help accelerate veterans’ postsecondary attainment.
Initially, the project will focus on assisting military veterans—another population that includes individuals with college-level skills and practical knowledge—in translating their skills to civilian life. But it also has the potential to help augment existing community college programs that are already leveraging prior learning and skills attainment among students 50 and older.
For example, in addition to training students in high-demand fields, the American Association of Community Colleges Plus 50 Encore Completion Program provides wrap-around services—credit for prior learning, computer-skill building, math refresher courses, and age-appropriate advising— to help students age 50 and up to increase their labor-market competitiveness.
Importantly, and true to their name, community colleges are also using this opportunity to benefit their communities at large: Modeling programs that integrate the commitment to completion with a fresh look at how best to structure credentials within a lifelong-learning framework, colleges are using what they learn in serving adult students to help drive efficiency in a system that will increasingly measure its success by students’ employment outcomes after they pivot from higher education to the workplace.
Walter G. Bumphus is president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges.