The college will assist adults age 50 and over in completing degrees or certificates in high-demand occupations that give back to the community. With many adults age 50 and over out of work or seeking to transition to a new career, the program offers skill updates and career makeovers. Norwalk Community College will prepare older adults for such careers as medical or dental assistants, home health aides, and child development associates.
NCC has long been committed to serving mature learners and understanding their unique needs. In 2010, NCC launched an innovative partnership with Meadow Ridge, a senior retirement community in Redding, Conn., to provide onsite courses for residents taught by NCC faculty. NCC also hosts the Lifetime Learners, a 20-year-old nonprofit adult education organization offering lectures and courses on the NCC campus for learners over 50.
Norwalk Community College is one of only 17 colleges recently selected for the Plus 50 project. The Plus 50 Encore Completion Program is offered by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) in cooperation with its member colleges and will ultimately comprise 100 colleges with special training programs for students age 50 and older.
Since 2008, AACC and its network of Plus 50 Initiative colleges have worked with baby boomers to help them prepare for new careers. An independent evaluation of AACC’s Plus 50 Initiative found that 89 percent of students agreed that college work force training helped them acquire new job skills, and 72 percent attributed landing a job to such training.
“Many adults age 50 and over want to train for new jobs that help others and are hiring, but they need to update their skills. Community colleges offer a supportive environment where baby boomers can train for new jobs quickly and affordably,” said Mary Sue Vickers, director for the Plus 50 Initiative at AACC.
Vickers says the program expects to add additional colleges in 2013 that will help it reach 10,000 baby boomer students by 2015.
In addition to grant funds to augment training programs, participating colleges gain access to toolkits and extensive marketing resources tailored to reach baby boomers. They’ll also benefit from the advice and support of staff at other community colleges that have successfully implemented programs for older learners and understand the unique needs of the plus 50 student population.
The Plus 50 Encore Completion Program is funded with a $3.2 million grant to AACC provided by Deerbrook Charitable Trust. The Plus 50 Encore Completion program supports AACC’s work to increase the number of students who finish degrees, certificates, and other credentials. In April 2010, AACC committed alongside other higher education organizations, to promote the development and implementation of policies, practices and institutional cultures that will produce 50 percent more students with high quality degrees and certificates by 2020.
In addition to Norwalk Community College, the 16 other newly-selected Plus 50 colleges are: Blue Ridge Community and Technical College (Martinsburg, W. Va.), Elgin Community College (Elgin, Ill.), Guam Community College (Mangilao, Guam), Halifax Community College (Weldon, N.C.), Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, Northwest (Valparaiso), Lake Region State College (Devils Lake, N.D.), Lenoir Community College (Kingston, N.C.), Montgomery County Community College (Blue Bell, Pa.), Northern Wyoming Community College District (Sheridan, Wyo.), Salt Lake Community College (Salt Lake City, Utah), Seminole State College of Florida (Sanford, Fla.), Tallahassee Community College (Tallahassee, Fla.), Tarrant County College District (Fort Worth, Texas), Tri-County Technical College (Pendleton, S.C.), Wayne County Community College District (Detroit, Mich.) and Zane State College (Zanesville, Ohio). The new colleges join 11 colleges chosen in August 2012.
For more information about the Plus 50 Initiative at AACC, see http://plus50.aacc.nche.edu