To help older students identify and close skills gaps, programs are using customized, personalized services.

Preparing 50+ adult learners for a changing workforce

By Jennifer Worth

To help older students identify and close skills gaps, programs are using customized, personalized services.

As the 50+ demographic grows among college student populations, campus administrators continue to engage these students in retooling and upgrading their skills in order to reenter or remain viable in the work place.

The BACK TO WORK 50+ (BTW50+) initiative and its recent spin-off, BTW50+ Women’s Economic Stability Initiative (WESI), have proven effective in engaging the mature student population and providing those students with a pathway to success. The initiatives are funded by AARP Foundation and managed in partnership with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

Certain skills gaps, particularly computer and technology usage, as well as new methods for job searching, have created challenges for job seekers over the age of 50 to engage, remain or advance in the workplace. For BTW50+ and WESI, successful strategies have been identified in rural and urban communities. These strategies include customized and personalized services that help job candidates identify their skills gaps, upgrade their talents and hone their job search strategies in order to more effectively re-career.

WESI has received such attention for innovation that it has been supplemented by a grant from the Social Innovation Fund. The grant aims to help women age 50 and older find local jobs and build their financial capacity to make sound decisions that reduce debt, rebuild savings and pave the way to greater financial stability.

Santa Fe College (Florida) is a WESI participant. Knowing that many of the women had not set foot on a campus over the last several decades, the college created an inviting atmosphere and administrators personally welcomed the new students. These little touches made the candidates feel welcomed and empowered to persist. Among the many things students learned, the participants were educated on social media and how to be mindful of what is publicly posted. Discussions with the students are often held in both personal and professional manners.  Personal to ensure that there is a level of comfort which allows the students to open up and offer their wealth knowledge.  Professional to help them to convey those important skills as talent as they look to reimagine their place in the workforce.

In order to maximize America’s economic strength, the widest workforce possible needs to be engaged and successful. The 50+ population is a powerful dynamic in that workforce.

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Jen Worth
Jennifer Worth

 is the senior vice president of workforce and economic development at AACC.