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THE ROLE OF CONTINUING EDUCATION IN SUPPORTING MATURE WORKERS

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					                                   THE ROLE OF CONTINUING EDUCATION IN SUPPORTING MATURE WORKERS



          THE ROLE OF CONTINUING EDUCATION IN SUPPORTING THE
           RE-ENTRY AND RETENTION OF MATURE WORKERS IN THE
                              WORKFORCE
                     Rena Shimoni, PhD, Doug Scotney, PhD and Megan Cohoe-Kenney
Executive Summary
The diverse demographic characteristics of current and potential students in Continuing Education
programs include an increasing number of older students. This study is designed to inform Canadian
post-secondary institutions about the needs of plus 50 workers/learners, and provide a set of
recommendations for Continuing Education. In addition, the demand and feasibility of such programs
will be highlighted. The first key question addressed by the study examined how Canadian post-
secondary institutions are responding to the need to provide relevant learning opportunities for the plus
50 population; the second key question examined best practices that continuing education programs
could adopt to meet the needs of this population.

The key questions were addressed through an extensive literature review, a survey sent out to Canadian
post-secondary institutions (through the Canadian Association for University Continuing Education and
the Association of Canadian Community Colleges), and telephone interviews with Canadian and
American colleges and universities.

Key findings from this study indicate that colleges in the United States are responding to this need
through the Plus 50 Initiative, a project of the American Association of Community Colleges. Canada’s
post secondary institutions have not fully embraced this issue or seized the opportunities for programs
in this regard. Some of the barriers to the development and implementation of services and programs to
the plus 50 population are identified, along with strategies for addressing these barriers.

INTRODUCTION
The Role of Continuing Education in Supporting the Re-Entry and Retention of Mature Workers in the
Workforce is an exploratory study aimed at gaining a deeper understanding of both the kinds of
programs that are currently available for mature or plus 50 workers interested in retraining as well as
the kinds of programming that educational institutions are or would be interested in facilitating.


BACKGROUND
Declining birth rates, increased life expectancy, and increasing numbers of people approaching
retirement age have led to certain challenges, changes, and opportunities in the workforce. The
Canadian government estimates that 41% of Canada’s working population will be between the ages of
45 to 64 by 2011, compared to only 29% of working Canadians who were in this demographic in 1991.1
Although the current economic downturn may have brought the traditional expected age of retirement
into question, the issues that arise from the expected worker shortage has not been resolved.

1
    Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, (2002) Challenges of an Aging Workforce.
                                  THE ROLE OF CONTINUING EDUCATION IN SUPPORTING MATURE WORKERS


Recent studies indicate that mature workers are looking for ways to remain active in both their career
and their community well past the traditional age of retirement2. Some see continuing work as a way to
give back; others see it as a way to supplement retirement income; and for others, it is an opportunity
to explore new employment options or careers. A study by Statistics Canada, for example, found that
60% of retired workers surveyed indicated that they would have preferred to continue working if their
circumstances had been different, such as having more flexible hours or improved pension
arrangements.3

Among educational institutions, there is some recognition of the need to re-think traditional educational
programs, both in terms of content and delivery methodologies, to enable mature workers to gain the
knowledge, skills and credentials required for successful re-integration into the work force. It is timely
and important to find the most effective ways that public post secondary institutions, through
Continuing Education, can encourage and enable plus 50 workers to re-enter and/or remain in the
workforce. Bow Valley College has undertaken this study as it has a long standing tradition of responding
to community and workforce needs, and is eager to participate in furthering its understanding and
knowledge in this area, as well as in developing and delivering relevant Continuing Education
opportunities for both employers and mature workers.


KEY QUESTIONS
A. How have Canadian post-secondary institutions responded to the need to provide relevant learning
   opportunities to mature or plus 50 workers and/or employers to promote success in
   re-entry and retention in the workforce?
B. What are the best practices for Continuing Education programs to support re-entry and retention of
   mature workers in the workforce?


METHODOLOGY
Data was gathered through a variety of methods: (a) a literature review; (b) an online survey of Continuing
Education personnel (posted on Survey Monkey) distributed by the Canadian Association for Continuing
Education (CAUCE) and to members of the Continuing Education Affinity Group of the Association of Canadian
Community Colleges (ACCC); and (c) follow-up interviews of institutions in Canada and the United States (N=9).
The open-ended interviews asked representatives from the Continuing Education departments the nature of
their programs, marketing strategies, and perceived barriers to implementing programs for plus 50 workers or
learners.

In total, the survey was administered to 240 post-secondary institutions for response. The purpose of
this survey was to determine the kinds of programs currently in operation within colleges for plus 50

2
  Alberta Employment and Immigration, (2008) Mature Workers in Alberta and British Columbia: Understanding
   the Issues and Opportunities (Section 1.5)
3
  Statistics Canada, (2005) You Can’t Always Get What You Want: Retirement Preferences and Experiences, p.3.
                                          THE ROLE OF CONTINUING EDUCATION IN SUPPORTING MATURE WORKERS


learners, as well as the challenges to implementing plus 50 programming. There were 77 (69 English and
8 French) surveys completed (32%), with a fairly equal distribution between the universities and the
colleges. The participating institutions represented all regions of the country as indicated below.




The majority of respondents (83%) were located in an urban centre, defined as an area of greater than
50,000 people.


KEY FINDINGS
Current 50 Plus Programming in Canada and the United States
A literature review of post secondary Continuing Education has provided an indication of the status of
programming for mature or plus 50 workers and learners. The American Association of Community
Colleges, for example, has released a report, “Educating Plus 50 Learners: Opportunities for Community
Colleges” based on a study that found that “colleges perceive the demand for plus 50 programming and
welcome plus 50 students to their campuses: 86% of the colleges surveyed said they offer programming
for plus 50 students”4 . The AACC has established the Plus 50 Initiative, a three-year effort to
benchmark and showcase the most current and innovative programs at community colleges to engage
the plus 50 learner. The 50 Plus Program focus areas are: (a) academic/personal interest/enrichment;
(b) training/re-training programs; and (c) volunteer/service activities5. In addition, Encore Colleges in
the US engage plus 50 populations by marketing themselves to adults over 50 who are searching for re-
training or pursuing new careers later in life.

From the survey of Continuing Education units within public universities and colleges, 71% of the77
respondents indicated they had programs/courses targeted to mature workers, with 23% indicating they did
not have targeted programs and 5% or 4 of the respondents indicating that they planned on offering
programming for this demographic in the future. The majority of courses are designed for general interest,
although a number of programs focused on career development either to gain new knowledge or to increase
training in current employment. The graph below outlines the nature of programming in more detail.



  4
    American Association of Community Colleges (2009). Educating 50 Plus Learners: Opportunities for Community Colleges. Retrieved August
4, 2009 from
http://plus50.aacc.nche.edu/docs/pubs/Executive_Summary_Educating_Plus_50_Learners_Opportunities_for_Community_Colleges.pdf
   5
     American Association of Community Colleges (2009). Educating 50 Plus Learners: Opportunities for Community Colleges. Retrieved August
4, 2009 from
http://plus50.aacc.nche.edu/docs/pubs/Executive_Summary_Educating_Plus_50_Learners_Opportunities_for_Community_Colleges.pdf
                                          THE ROLE OF CONTINUING EDUCATION IN SUPPORTING MATURE WORKERS




Consistent with the study done for the American Association of Community Colleges, the most common
offerings are general interest courses with about one-fifth of the Continuing Education units offering courses
to development new skills and skills to retain employment.

Generally courses are offered in a face-to-face format with 35% of the institutions who responded to this
question(N=43) indicating they offer courses online, 28% offer courses in a blended format and 23% delivery
courses by home study as well. Over half of the institutions responding indicated they anticipate a growing
interest in online learning among the plus 50 learners.

Career related services offered specifically for plus 50 learners include seminars on job search skills, career
resources, employment placement services, career coaching, and job boards.

Funding Plus 50 Programming
 Personnel interviewed indicate they generally fund course activities through student tuition (all of the
Canadian ones do). Three institutions received support from their college/university, one did fundraising and
charged an annual membership fee, and one utilized a federal/state-wide grant (Plus 50 Initiative/Encore-
US). However, as one respondent indicated, ‘funding is a challenge’.


Determining the Needs and Demand for Plus 50 Programming
As described in the report “Educating Plus 50
Learners”, the colleges indicate the “major source
of demand for such programming (programs and
services that meet the needs of the plus 50
population) has been among plus 50 individuals
themselves, although colleges also perceive
demand from community organizations and
business”6.

  6
    American Association of Community Colleges (2009). Educating 50 Plus Learners: Opportunities for Community Colleges. Retrieved August
4, 2009 from
http://plus50.aacc.nche.edu/docs/pubs/Executive_Summary_Educating_Plus_50_Learners_Opportunities_for_Community_Colleges.pdf.
                                THE ROLE OF CONTINUING EDUCATION IN SUPPORTING MATURE WORKERS




From the survey, 67% (29/43) of the respondents anticipate a growing interest amongst plus 50
workers/learners. Not surprisingly, Continuing Education departments have slightly more of an interest
in expanding plus 50 programming than the institution as a whole. However, the differences between
the demand within the Continuing Education department, and their perceived demand for such
programming within the institution as a whole, were minute.

The most common strategies to identify the need for relevant programs/courses for plus 50
workers/learners included: (a) survey plus 50 students; (b) economic/labour trends; (c) advisory
committees; and (d) surveys of the general plus 50 population. Other strategies suggested by
interviewees included following trends in programming, discussions with community organizations, and
meetings with employers.

Generational Marketing: Appealing to Plus 50 Learners


Survey responses indicate a gap between perceived demand/interest in generational marketing and
following through with such initiatives. While only 42% (N=18) of 43 responses target plus 50 learners in
marketing, 63% plan on implementing target marketing in the future. 70% (N=30) of the respondents
collect the ages of continuing education registrants which will assist in future marketing to this group.

Some of the reasons given for conducting generational marketing include: the growing market of plus 50
learners; the effectiveness of target marketing in attracting age-specific groups; and the growing
interest in the plus 50 group. Suggested approaches to marketing to this group include having a section
in the calendar, using websites, advertising in senior-friendly publications, and promoting through
community newsletters. Based on comments of the interviewees, the most common forms of
marketing for this population are brochures, the Continuing Education calendar, print advertising, and
meetings with community groups. Senior trade shows and radio were also suggested.


Challenges in Developing and Implementing Continuing Education Programs for Plus 50 Workers and
Learners
                                 THE ROLE OF CONTINUING EDUCATION IN SUPPORTING MATURE WORKERS




As indicated by the above chart, a number of challenges were identified by the survey respondents with
lack of institutional support, lack of resources, perceived difficulty in marketing to this age group, a
shortage of classroom/administrative space, and lack of identified need indicated.

Suggestions of Best or Successful Practices for Continuing Education Programs in Responding to plus
50 workers/learners

A list of best or successful practices was developed out of a literature review of existing practices across
the United States and Canada, interviews with selected institutions, and survey data. Using this
information, themes were developed as to what best practices may be currently in place for mature
learners:

    1. Providing flexibility and variety in course offerings including short and focused programming
    2. Offering a variety of delivery formats to plus 50 learners including face to face, blended courses
       (combination of face to face and technology mediated) and online
    3. Developing programs and courses specific to the needs and schedules of mature workers and
       learners
    4. Providing quality instruction and course materials
    5. Offering programs and courses in locations that are convenient to the learner
    6. Providing training that is based on the needs of the current local labour market
    7. Offering career-related/employment services targeted specifically to the plus 50 population


RECOMMENDATIONS
Based on this data, it is clear that colleges need to develop programs specifically designed for providing
plus 50 learners with the skills necessary to re-enter or remain in the workforce. The two strongest
training needs appear to be technology training and life transition training. Enhancing the computer
literacy of mature learners or workers would assist people in job hunting and applications as well as give
them computing skills needed for many positions. Life transition training could help people transition
into new fields, such as health care. It could also assist with intergenerational training, communication
skills, and the changes that coincide with major life changes, such as caring for aging parents.


CONCLUDING REMARKS
Information gleaned from this study makes it clear that courses and training designed to re-integrate
retirees into the workplace or assist workers remain in the workforce should be expanded. Developing
and marketing courses and services to support 50 plus workers will facilitate the transition to retirement
and retain a valuable resource in the workplace.
                                THE ROLE OF CONTINUING EDUCATION IN SUPPORTING MATURE WORKERS



Acknowledgements
Bow Valley College wishes to acknowledge the following individuals and their organizations for their
generous support and guidance of the project:
   The Canadian Association for University Continuing Education for its funding support and assistance
    in distributing the online Continuing Education Survey
   The Association of Canadian Community Colleges for its assistance in distributing the online
    Continuing Education Survey to the members of the Continuing Education and Contract Training
    Affinity Group
   Pat Methuen and Norma MacIntosh of the Alberta Committee of Community Education and Training
   Representatives from the continuing education units of universities and colleges who agreed to
    participate in follow up interviews

Project Team: Dr. Doug Scotney, Principal Researcher, Scottie Ray, Amy Maginley, Megan Cohoe-
Kenney, Charmain Thurlow, and Barbara Henning

Project Sponsors: Dr. Rena Shimoni, Dean of Applied Research and Innovation, Pat Methuen, Director
of Continuing Education
                               THE ROLE OF CONTINUING EDUCATION IN SUPPORTING MATURE WORKERS



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