Will Higher Ed Win the Adult Upskilling Game?

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Becky Klein-Collins, Vice President of Impact at CAEL joined the podcast to discuss whether or not “college” is the most obvious opportunity for adults to upskill today, and whether or not it deserves to be.

Institutions have a really great resource rightat their fingertips, which is their federal relief dollars. They need to bethinking really strategically about how to use those dollars from the Higher Education Emergency ReallyFund. You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professionaldevelopment podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcomeback to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect eedu podcast network. I'm Eric Olson with Helix Education and we're here today with Becky Klein Collins, vice president of impacted Kale. Becky, welcome to the show. Hi,it's great to be here. We really excited to have you here todayand talk with you about how prepared hire it is to solve the adult upskillingchallenge in front of us. But before we dig in, can you givethe listeners a little bit of background on the Council for adult and experiential learning, Kale, and your rule? They're sure well. Kale is a nationalnonprofit that works to improve education to career pathways for adult learners. What thatmeans is we bring together organizations that support adult learners and we provide them withthe tools and solutions they need to effectively serve this population. My Role,they are is, you know, doing research projects and writing about this workand engaging with people on the national stage. So glad to be here with you. Awesome, awesome. I'm so excited for what your background and yourresearch how that will inform this conversation, because as we look through economic recoverytrends and certain economic signals, we're seeing in certain employment signals that we thoughtwe were seeing that aren't showing up. I think getting a little bit ofa why or why not from your vantage point will be super helpful. Veggie, approximately half of all Americans between the...

...ages of twenty five to sixty fourdo not have a post secondary credential. help us understand what the current employmentopportunities look like for this group. So current is is the problematic part ofyour question, right. So there are a lot of moving parts to yourquestion. At the very at this very moment, right we're in the middleof the pandemic, still still in the early days of our economic recovery.So we really don't have a very clear picture of what we're likely to seein the labor market for, say, the next couple months or the remainderof this year. In fact, now, in the early days of the pandemic, we saw that people working jobs that could shift to remote work weremore likely to have stability and their employment or if they did lose their jobs, they were the ones who could regain employment more quickly. So what weknow is that those jobs tended to be held by people with college degrees,and so as we started to look to the larger recovery, you would thinkthat we'd see opportunities start to open up for folks without degrees. So wehave restaurants, we have other hospitality, we've got retail starting to open upa lot more, but it's still a pretty complicated picture. So one issueto keep in mind is this. Last year three million women left the workforce. That was huge and many women have not yet returned and they still can'treturn. And the reason is because in this country, despite women's advances andeducation and career achievements over the last few generations, women still take on thebulk of child care responsibilities in many, if not most, households and,as you know, childhre services are still not as available as they were priorto the pandemic, or they're inconsistently offered, and many schools are still not quitefull time for children. So when there's no childcare, it's hard togo back to work, and that kind of phenomenon is what really is makingthis particular recovery so unusual and so hard...

...to understand. You know what thetrends are and where we're headed, but generally speaking, if we think abouthow our economy is structured, where it's headed, what the growing industries andoccupations are, we can pretty much bet that the jobs that were going tosee emerging in the future, all the new jobs, they're going to requirehigher levels of skills than in previous generations or prior to the pandemic. Andthis has been a trend for quite a while. The last recovery, youknow, it's an economic recovery related to the great recession. You know,that made it very clear and because after you know, coming out of thatgreat recession is new jobs were created. George Town Center for Education in theworkforce, they estimated that ninety nine percent of those new jobs required at leastsome kind of college education. Now, obviously, it's not just any collegecourse work that positions people for good jobs. The real ticket to good jobs isa post secretary credential that's valued by business and industry. So, Becky, as we have those three million women specifically that are over next year hopefullylooking to re enter the market potentially, the skills requirements for employers have haveincreased over this last year. Do most adults seek college as the most obviousopportunity to upskill today, and or should they? You know, probably tenyears ago I would say that a college degree was the most obvious opportunity thatjust about everyone would say workers should be pursuing in order to advance their careers, get a good job and so on. But I think we're in a slightlydifferent place now. And yet even even now I'm not sure that workingadults who are needing are needing upskilling. I'm not sure that they are reallyaware of what other options besides a college...

...degree might be available to them.I haven't mentioned this. My Organization, Kale, is part of the strataeducation network. Where an affiliate in that group and strata has been doing somegreat work this past year and tapping into the voice of the education consumer duringthe pandemic. Some really interesting stuff that they've been putting out last year inthe thick of the pandemic. So they surveyed adults without degrees and what theylearned was that forty four percent of this group, these adults without degrees,said that they don't have the right skills or credentials to get a good jobor advance in their career, and only like about a third said that theyeven had a good understanding of what skills they should be developing. So theyknow they need more education and training, but they don't exactly know what thatneeds to be. And in general, I'd say that there's a misperception outthere and a lot of circles that a four year degree is what is requiredfor employment in a growth industry or a well paying occupation or to get aheadin life right and adults without degrees may really think that's the only way toaccess good jobs. But the truth is that there's you know, there aremany jobs that pay well and that have a good long term employment outlook andthat don't require a bachelor's degree. And I'm thinking in particular about jobs andindustries like allied healthcare, it advanced manufacturing industries like that. Now these jobsdo require some additional skills and competencies beyond a high coll diploma, and oftenthey're going to require some kind of formal short term credential, so something lessthan a four year degree. So job seekers do have different options to considerif they're looking to reskill or up skill in order to access new employment opportunities. But the challenge is that it's currently really confusing for people to understand.You know, what are the jobs that promise long term stable employment and whatkind of training do I need for those jobs, and what kind of shortterm credential is going to really have value...

...in the labor market? And whatmakes it even more challenging is that the skills needed in one regions labor marketmight not be the case in a different regions. So this is all veryplace based and it's important, then, so for adults who wanting or wantingto reskill, they need to be asking really good questions about a training orcredential program. So what occupations is that program training for? What's the LaborMarket Outlook for that job in my region and what's the record of this particularprogram in terms of placing its graduates in those jobs? And on the flipside of that, institutions really need to be prepared to answer those kinds ofquestions. And just one more thing I would say. You know, ontop of all those kinds of questions, you know, the adult learner isgoing to need to know what's this program going to take in terms of timeand money. And in this pandemic, you know, lower income workers,particularly lower income workers of color, have been hit the hardest when it comesto upskilling or reskilling. They are going to want options that get them toavailable jobs quickly and without, you know, a really high sticker price. Sowhat I hear you saying is that one major benefit higher at has isthis historical understanding that college is the pathway to career and life success. Andso if adults are looking to US first, how do we make good on that? What would a very, very serious and supportive focus on this perspectiveadult audience from higher at really look like? Yeah, so, you know,Kale, my organization has worked with a lot of colleges and universities overthe years who are wanting to make their programs better for adult learners and youknow, we work with them on many different dimensions of making programs more accessibleand targeted to adult learners needs. But what becomes clear very quickly as wehave these conversations with them is that it's not just offering online courses or eveningor weeking courses. You know, that's not that doesn't make an adult learnerprogram that's just not enough to serve adult...

...students well. You really need tothink about a shift across the entire institution and think about flexibility, think abouthow to fit into the busy and very full adult learners lives. I'll justmention a few things that, you know, institutions need to think about. Oneis institutions need to think about being a more welcoming place for adult students. Adults really need to feel like they belong in college, and so someonewho comes to your institution tuition as an adult, they are going to havesome anxiety about returning to a learning environment. It may have been a while sincethey've been in school. They made, you know, they may have beentold at various times in their lives that there aren't college material and sothey they may really worry about that. So providing a place that they feellike they belong and see themselves in that place is really important. But theother thing is, you know, to offer flexibility. We talked before aboutthe how the four year college degree may not be the best fit for everylearner or for every job opportunity that's out there, and so becoming more flexiblein the kinds of programs that are being offered and how they're being offered isreally going to be important. So accelerated and flexible learning models are key sothat they're designed for the working learner so that their self paced. Also,and it's ductions. Often don't think about this, but they should be offeredat multiple start times during the academic year and not just, you know,September and January. That's going to be really important to give, you know, learners the flexibility they need in their own schedules. And you know,we talked a little bit about how it's all about thinking about occupations that aregoing to offer long term employability and stable employment. So, you know,making sure your programs are really tied to what the needs are in the labormarket. In your labor market, adults obviously pursue post secondary education for manyreasons, but most are really hoping for that better job on the other endof it. So they need to know...

...that what they're learning is relevant andit's going to prepare them for their target occupation. And you know, anotherthing is that institutions really need to value the learning that students are already bringingwith them. So meeting them where they are on that learning journey, andthat means having policies that are going to recognize transfer credits from other institutions sothat they're not wasting college credits that have already been earned. But also,you know, in adults are bringing some significant learning from their work and lifeexperiences. So offering multiple ways to a word credit for prior learning, alsocalled prior learning assessment, that's going to be really important. And finally,you know, related to the pandemic. You know, think about the changesthat an institution may have made already that have really benefited not just you know, I don't learn is, but everybody during this pandemic. You know,for example, providing things like support services online. That was a real necessityfor everybody at some point when we needed to be at a physical distance fromeach other. But why not continue those online supports in a future because thatcould really be a big help for workers wanting to go back to school.I love the flexibility first focus that you outline, becky. Finally, anynext steps advice prinstitutions thinking about this challenge, wanting to make sure that their institutionsoffering for upskilling for degree completion still feels like not only the right choicebut the best choice for them and they want to take this adult upskilling challengeand opportunity seriously. Where should they start first? Well, I'm going tosort of bring it back to this pandemic question right. So, in termsof immediate steps that could be taken, institutions have a really great resource rightat their fingertips, which is their federal relief dollars, and they need tobe thinking really strategically about how to use those dollars. This is from theHigher Education Emergency Really Fund, that's from...

...the cares act and the American rescueplan, and they can use these dollars in some creative ways to support adultlearners on their campuses. And so let's think in terms of you with therelief dollars. There's one portion that they have to use for direct emergency cashgrants for students, and you know this money is intended not only for academicsupports but also for other things that can cause a noub don't learner to dropout. So if you don't have food or housing or childcare, these emergencygrants are going to really help those students with those issues. And, aswe discussed earlier, you know, women have really taken on a lot ofadult additional responsibilities during the pandemic and so providing them with these additional resources isreally going to be money well spent. One thing just to clarify to isyou know, last week the US Department of Education announced that this emergency fundingdoesn't need to be limited to students who are receiving title for funding. Itcan go to anyone, even to students who didn't fill out the FAFTSA,which is really important for institutions to be aware of because there are some studentswho have some real needs who maybe not be tied into the federal financial aidsystem. And then there's the other part of the emergency really fund, thereally fund from the Federal Government, and that's the part that's for institutional uses, and you know there's some pretty tight restrictions on how this funding can beused. So it has to be pandemic related, but it there can't.There's some language in there that suggests it can be used to support student retentionrelated to the pandemic. So think creatively about what else might help the adultstudents that you know are maybe really struggling because of the pandemic. What canreally help them continue their studies right now? So that could be additional advising support. It could be, you know, providing some self paced learning models thatallow someone to fit school around childcare or work, some additional tutoring resources, and that also forgiveness of any institutional...

...debts that students might have. That'sdefinitely something that they could do. So, Oh and also they could provide additionalemergency grants with that money, so if students have some, you know, really extraordinary needs in terms of food or housing or childcare, that institutionalportion can be used for those as well. So really, right now institutions havea unique opportunity to provide additional supports to adult learners right now with theseresources and and I would suggest that that would be a really great place tostart. Thank you. Thank you so much for your time and your expertisetoday. What's the best place for listeners to connect with you if they haveany follow up questions? Sure? Well, they could contact me through my emailat B K L E I n at Kale Dot Org, or contactKale directly at see ae l at see a yell Dot Org, and thatwould be probably the best way. Awesome, becky. Thanks so much for joiningus today. You're welcome. Thanks for having me. Attracting today's newpost traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wideapproach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this neweducation landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growthplaybook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressingenrollment growth challenges, downloaded today for free at Helix Educationcom. Playbook. You'vebeen listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you nevermiss an episode, subscribe to the show on Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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