The Landscape of Lifelong Learning; What’s Current, New and Hot In Continuing Education, Workforce Development And Community Education Across the Country
Are Educational Program Planners still doing the same thing? Are the familiar stand-bys still driving enrollment? Or, is there a definitive change in lifelong learning trends at both the community college and university? What makes for successful (enrollment and revenue) continuing education and workforce development training deliverables as we close out the first decade of the 21st century?
Are we on top of our game tracking employment trends of the 21st century? Do we know what is needed for working professionals in our service area to stay current in their field? What new careers are coming down the pike that Divisions of Workforce Development must prepare students for to be ahead of the curve? What must Divisions of Corporate Education do to sustain and ensure the viability of companies in the face of the global financial and accountability meltdown?
Are we in “synch” with the diversity of lifestyles, cultures and interests in our service area to know what kinds of course offerings the community wants? What about age differences? Are Gen X and Gen Y driving new courses? Are we delivering instruction across The Great Technological Divide? Are we offering the same things in different formats?
Continuing Education Program Planners and Workforce Development Training Managers are challenged like never before… challenged by the New Economy; multiple generations at work; new career tracks; new technologies to deliver learning; reduced funding; an adequate supply of well-qualified trainers-to name just a few concerns-if they want their programs to meet customer expectations and satisfy their institution’s demands to function without operational subsidies.
Where is continuing education evolving as universities and colleges program for the second decade of the new millennia? What is the right formula for a sound framework of solid, stable programs blended with the right amount-and kind-of innovative subjects?
Hold onto your hats!
The panoramic snapshot is amazing. Catch a glimpse of the landscape of lifelong learning based upon a random survey of institutions of higher education across the country. Note the “hottest” occupations according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Consider what other programmers are trying. Finally, take note of what has become both our greatest nemesis in terms of competition in educational training delivery as well as our best source for both customers and marketing outreach-the Internet. In addition to the growth of proprietary schools, independent providers-both consultants and trainers-are also increasing in number and delivering many interesting opportunities for lifelong learning. They are doing so in person and across the worldwide web. Their programs, prices and curriculum can be extraordinarily competitive.
Today’s landscape of continuing education is not what it was yesterday. Neither is it likely to be a close reflection of what it will need to look like tomorrow. The Information Age is happening at warp speed. If we, as providers, are to be successful at staying in the game, it might be wise to embrace the words of the infamous Captain Kirk as he led his crew into places where “no man has gone before…” With everyone at attention, he states quite clearly, “engage.”
Programmers won’t be successful unless we are (1) fully engaged with the needs and wants for information by the learners we serve, (2) fully engaged with our institution’s technology capabilities to deliver instruction and (3) fully engaged with faculty and staff to keep us on point for what’s coming around the next corner.
To innovate and collaborate must be Mission Critical. A forward-thinking captain leads the way.
I. Workforce Development (Job Skills Training) – Some of the “Hotties” (in Technology)
According to monster.com, (reference: Hot Tech Careers for the 21st Century by Sacha Cohen), the key Buzz Work Word is technology-anything. This is not to say that there are other job training skills that Workforce Developers should consider less important – of course not. But, it is a prime example of the need for a major redirect to adequately prepare tomorrow’s job force. Think Henry Ford and the invention of the automobile back in the 20th… before it was invented, who knew how to build them? The analogy holds true today. However, the reality is that the training we provide for today’s tech jobs may not suffice for newer jobs that are sure to quickly follow in response to the rapid pace of technological advancements. Today, trained workforce is needed to fill jobs like these:
1. Network Experts -Also known as “Global Network Architects,” they will need to be knowledgeable in Internet, voice, data and cable.
2. Information Architect – IAs are responsible for learning how users find information in a site by defining the site’s organization, navigation and labeling systems.
3. Web Site/Database Integrator – Web site/database integrators will need to know standard Web site languages (HTML, PERL, C, JAVA, etc.), database languages (DB2, Oracle, SQL, etc.) and, in the case of legacy systems, some back-end knowledge of accounting packages, financial systems and inventory systems. This job also requires the ability to hook the database(s) to an Internet site or an intranet.
4. Web Programmers and Developers – These Internet “Mechanics” need to be well versed in a variety of programming languages including Java, Cold Fusion, C++ and PERL.
5. Information Broker/Infomediary – These are third-party agents who broker client information to vendors in exchange for goods and services for the consumer.
6. Information Security Specialists – A.K.A Internet “Cops,” these are the folks that (web) hackers hate; kind of like what FBI counterfeit specialists are to banks.
7. Web “Medics” – Loosely translated, these are “doctors” of internet “medicine;” they fix viruses and immunize against e-illnesses like Trojan Horses, spam, and Phishers; they build protective firewalls and create “vaccines” (programs) against internet espionage and infiltration.
Find the right instructors to design curriculum and teach people how to do these kinds of jobs and you are well on your way to program success-if your employment sector supports the need. If your institution exists deep in the heartland of agriculture or areas where new technologies are not key economic drivers, don’t abandon sound programs for the sake of what’s popular. Where you are, who lives there and what happens in the community should shape your programs, first. If your college is knee-deep in cows and corn, cyber security is probably not going to be as necessary as agri-technicians and biofuel mechanics. Remember who you are-not what you think you should be (or would like to be!)
Workforce training still needs to make sense in relation to where it is geographically located. It also should continue to provide programs to specific, industry-driven skills as mandated by those with jobs for hire-regardless.
What are the projected trends in workforce development? According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, edition 2008-09, almost three-quarters of the job growth will come from three main groups of professional occupations. These occupational projections are good indicators for program planners to keep in mind when deciding what subject-matter areas should be considered for a current and relevant product mix:
1. Computer and Mathematical occupations
Emphasis on software publishing, Internet publishing and broadcasting, and wireless telecommunication services
2. Healthcare practitioners and technical occupations
Emphasis on nursing, home health care aides
3. Education, training, and library occupations
Teachers, Human Resource Specialists, information providers; the need exists today and shows no signs of market saturation anytime, soon.
Other noted areas where employment is projected to grow includes:
Waste management (water and sewage)
Motion picture production
Newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishing
Leisure (arts, entertainment, and recreation
Hospitality (accommodations and food services)
Automotive repair and maintenance (one of the largest growth sectors)
Construction, specifically road, bridge, and tunnel construction
Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing
source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections
Take a look at what your service area will support as well as what is anticipated by your region’s economic developers to determine what works best for your institution. Whatever direction you choose to take, expand, overhaul or improve, be sure the curriculum meets today’s standards for instruction for a particular field, has clearly identified core competencies the learner can expect to gain, and is delivered in such a way (or ways) that technology is well-integrated into both teaching and learning.
II. Continuing Professional Education Trends
The staples-Project Management, Fiscal Management, Executive Leadership Development, Supervisory Training, Staff Development, Business Communication, profession-specific certification and licensure renewal courses and “Lean” themes (doing more with less)-continue to be well-represented at many institutions of higher education, large and small, university or community college. To keep current and to appear fresh, savvy programmers are tossing into the mix a variety of new and re-tooled products with a little different “edge.” Call it visionary, creative thinking or responsive, these “eye-openers” call attention to themselves either because the titles are “catchy,” relevant and/or very, very targeted to a specific customer.
The following list is a “sneak peek” of some of the more inventive, interesting and very cool topics designed for today’s professional workforce:
Ergonomic Interventions; The Fine Art of “Desking” and Preventing Workplace Disorders
Technical Communication in the Workplace; Protocols, Style, Skills and Techniques
Digital Literacy in the 21st Century Workplace
Email, Websites & Content, Document Sharing, File Transfer, List Serves and Blogs … Oh My!
21st Century Communication Tools; Optimizing and Integrating Your PDA, Laptop and Cell
The New Economy; Managing Projects across Cultures and Geographies… and Technologies
The New Ecology; Going Green at the Office
Challenging the Script; Mindsets, Expectations and Corporate Culture for Gen X and Y
Building Company Accountability,” an executive workshop, designed specifically for Presidents, CEOs and Business Owners (a.k.a. Corporate Corruption, White-Collar Crime)
Squishers, Squashers and Soothers: The Role of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace
Weapons of Mass Instruction: Preparing Teachers for Tomorrow’s Learners
III. The Changing Face of Community Education
Community Education and personal enrichment continue to serve the general public with a multitude of course offerings which are enjoyable, offer social opportunities and enhance our sense of self through music, art, dance, theatre, books, travel, sport, recreation and hobby. That being said, the landscape is also beginning to include many more serious topics that reflect some of the most challenging issues faced by today’s families. Subjects that were previously either unaddressed, altogether, or primarily spoken about within the context of a particular degree program (i.e., sociology, psychology, medicine) are evolving and transforming into non-credit course offerings targeted for the lay person who wants to know more about a particular subject-matter area without necessarily becoming a degreed professional.
Name a particular problem within a given community, define it within the context of age (Gen X, Y, Boomers), orientation (gender), role (parent, child, teacher, doctor), race, religion, culture or political persuasion, find respected, well-educated people who can speak to that topic and voilá, a course is born and with it, the opportunity for engaging new learners. In addition to pursuing an interest for the sake of pure enjoyment, people want to know about all kinds of topics, even if they are controversial (stem cell research,), scary (Internet predators), personal (child alcoholism, work/family balance, eldercare, end-of-life choices, plastic surgery), or challenging (reading for comprehension, writing well, speaking in public, debt management, weight management, goal management).
Community Education programs (in juxtaposition to Continuing Professional Education, Corporate Education and Workforce Development job preparation training classes) do not typically expect participants to meet performance standards; showing up and participating are generally the only “requirements.’ This puts a very different spin on things and offers the Program Planner a completely different arena for learning opportunities, fun or serious.
What follows are some Community Ed program areas that reflect new and growing concerns of the day as well as some re-named titles for topics that seem to transcend time and remain “constants.”
Anything and EVERYTHING to do with Personal Health and Well-Being
MED-Speak; Understanding Your Diagnosis
Prescription Wars; What You Need to Know Before Swallowing
Alternative Medical Theories and Approaches; Myth, Magic or Misaligned?
Acupuncture, Acupressure; Does It Hurt and Will it Work?
Beauty & the Beast: Wrinkle-Free, Whiter Teeth, and More Hair; A Consumer’s Guide
Cognitive Strategies for a Healthy Memory
Coming of Age
Now That You Are 20
Now That You Are 30
Now That You Are 40… and so one
Managing Chain-Yankers; Saying “No” When You Think You Should Say “Yes”
Personal Finances: Money, Money, Money
Getting There; A Consumer’s Guide to Purchasing a Hybrid
The New Economy; Recession Investment Protection
Starting Over, Starting Sooner; Recovering from Recession
Behind The Walls and Under the Dirt; Buying Your Next Home
U-Tube, FACE Book, My Space and More; What Parents Need to Know – and Do
Parenting Your Parents: What Children Need to Know
The Warning Signs of Dementia and Senility
It’s Your Life; Are You Prepared?
Preparing for Children
Preparing for College
Preparing for Your Profession
Preparing for Marriage
Preparing for Separation and Divorce
Preparing for Retirement
Preparing for Death
Lions, Tigers and Bears; Making Your Way Through the Dating Jungle
Take a look at what’s out there. Ask your counterparts what’s working, what’s not, what’s old, what’s “hot.” Ask your companies where they might go for employee training if you weren’t there-and then go see what “they” are doing. Ask your community what they would like to take-if they had more time, more money, more energy; is there a way to meet their needs? Ask your faculty and trainers what they are hearing that’s up and coming in their field of expertise. What’s out there on the Internet; who’s doing it and for how much and when? The sky IS the limit. And while you cannot be all things to all people at any given point in time, you can and should broaden your program deliverables to reflect some of the newest trends in continuing and professional education, corporate education, workforce development and lifelong learning. Manage to stay fresh, creative and interesting without foregoing existing program stability.
Captain Kirk was still going strong after several decades at the helm… are you?