Learning is truly for people of all ages. There are many ways for students to continue to study and earn credentials after the big graduation cap toss.
While traditional study is still mostly completed through a two-to-four-year diploma or degree, many learners—and even businesses—are seeing the value of lifelong learning through continuing education.
In 2017, nearly 40% of those enroled at a degree-granting postsecondary school were over the age of 25—that’s almost 8 million students!
With such a large group falling outside the fresh-out-of-high-school student scope, it’s easy to see why offering continuing education courses is becoming more popular in postsecondary education.
What Is Continuing Education?
Continuing education can be defined as courses that are usually taken by adult learners, typically with a part-time course load. Adult continuing education is an opportunity for these learners to complete a previously started degree or upskill themselves to progress in their careers.
However, continuing education courses aren’t just for mid-career adults. With more and more workplaces offering incentives for continuing education, learners of all ages—like new grads—can take advantage of opportunities to grow their skills.
Continuing education plays an important role in addressing skills shortages by offering programmes that are aligned with employer demand. Students who enroll in these postsecondary programmes are gaining skills to help set them up for success in the job market.
The Value of Continuing Education for Mid-Career Adults
As time progresses, workplaces and their operating tactics evolve. As many workers continue their journeys in the workforce, they become further removed from their original education. Research done by the World Economic Forum in 2020 found that by 2025, 44% of the skills current employees hold will need to change.
Instead of getting stuck in the past, upskilling or taking advantage of continuing education is a great way for employees to stay relevant and competitive in their market.
Many companies have started offering tuition reimbursement perks for their employees. Research has found that 92% of organisations in the U.S. provide educational benefits. These perks not only help staff further develop their skills, but they can also help employers improve retention.
To help with the growing demand associated with nontraditional learners, many postsecondary institutions are developing or expanding their continuing education departments. From offering certificates and micro-credentials to stand-alone or stackable courses, there are options for everyone.
The Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence (ITCOE), hosted by Metropolitan State University, is helping fill IT industry job demand in Minnesota. The institution’s Curriculum Project used its learning management system, D2L Brightspace™, to deliver on-demand, IT-focused modules across its campuses.
The modules are completely virtual and free, which means working students can access and complete exercises to upskill their abilities in a more flexible manner.
By offering continuing education, ITCOE was able to help meet the needs of its community by upskilling students and filling open jobs.
Continuing Education for New Grads
Although continuing education may be thought of as an offering used more commonly by mid-career professionals, there’s no reason why a new graduate wouldn’t want to take advantage of furthering their skills.
The needs and wants of students graduating from high school and pursuing postsecondary education are changing.
Postsecondary enrolment in the U.S. continues to drop year over year. In the spring of 2022, enrolment fell 4.1% year over year, amounting to a decrease of over 650,000 students.
Students attaining a traditional four-year degree may no longer be the norm, with research finding that more than half of teens would pursue education outside a four-year degree.
For higher ed institutions, companies offering tuition reimbursement benefits and continuing education are the perfect storm for ambitious Gen Zs looking to advance their careers. Offering alternative ways to attract students, like continuing education courses, can keep butts in seats.
Choosing Continuing Education
Making options available for students who want to continue to pursue education outside a formal degree holds benefits for learners and institutions alike.
If there’s a willingness to learn, providing students with an outlet to fulfil their academic pursuits will promote lifelong learning for all parties involved.
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