3 forces causing the surge in CE and workforce development programs
1. Growing and aging undergrad population
Adult learners are the fastest growing segment of the higher education market in the U.S. today. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that two-thirds of postsecondary students work at least part-time, support children or other dependents, are financially independent (don’t qualify for financial aid), and/or embody other attributes of the so-called “nontraditional” college student. As this population continues to proliferate, it’s clear that the nontraditional student is now the New Traditional Student.
Now about those Baby Boomers …
Adult learners are usually defined as ages 24 and older. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 28 percent of the U.S. workforce is comprised of employees aged 50 and over. By 2016 it will rise to 33.5 percent. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) reports that eight out of 10 Baby Boomers intend to keep working well past retirement age. By necessity or desire, many of them will start up small businesses or embark on new careers.
The Kauffman Foundation confirms that the highest rate of business startup activity over the past decade has been among people in the 55 to 64 age bracket. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, more than half of all U.S. small business owners were age 50 and over in 2012.
The influx of New Traditional Students, along with unprecedented interest in late career rejuvenation and small business development has created increased demand for affordable learning that is flexible, easy to access, personal, and credentialed. Modern CE programs thrive by meeting these needs.
2. Evolving job market requiring lifelong learning
The world economy has become increasingly dependent upon a highly educated workforce. Recent predictions indicate that over 60% of jobs will require post-secondary education by 2020.
Many workers are finding that a single, four year degree won’t support them through an entire career. To keep up with advancing technology and global competition, today’s employees are more proactively engaged in the pursuit of lifelong learning.
Companies in the information technology industry that offer access to continued learning and workforce development opportunities enjoy higher employee retention and increased competitive positioning. Continuing education is required to meet professional standards or to satisfy relicensing requirements in over 50 professions including teaching, nursing, social services, accounting, and real estate.
As more and more workers seek credentialing and reskilling opportunities to keep up with the ever-increasing pace of change in their profession, continuing education providers offer a way to enhance their employability and career advancement potential.
3. The Internet of Things
A 2013 report by the Babson Survey Research Group reveals that the number of students taking at least one online course has now surpassed 6 million. “The rate of growth in online enrollments is ten times that of the rate in all higher education” says Elaine Allen, Co-Director of the Babson Survey Research Group and Professor of Statistics & Entrepreneurship at Babson College.
Schools of extension have become incubators of ground-breaking programs, many seeing extraordinary success. The internet is the most common CE delivery tool. Online education, eLearning, eTextbooks, and the general ubiquity of technology have combined to create a digital revolution in education.
Michelle Weise, Senior Research Fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute, sees the trend accelerating: “The students of tomorrow will work during their studies and will need to constantly learn new skills to keep up with the job market. Everyone will design his or her own curriculum and pair it with paid work, internships, opportunities abroad, certificates and mini degrees obtained either online or from specialized providers. Lifelong learning will become the new norm.”
To learn about technology for CE and workforce development programs, check out Jenzabar Higher Reach. You can also meet with us at the 2015 UPCEA 100th Annual Conference, March 30 – April 1 in Washington, DC. Stop by booth #301/303 and say hello!
What’s driving growth in your CE program? Share your story in the comments section below.