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 right at their fingertips, which is their federal relief dollars. They need to be thinking really strategically about how to use those dollars from the Higher Education Emergency Really Fund. You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development 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. Welcome back 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 today and talk with you about how prepared hire it is to solve the adult upskilling challenge in front of us. But before we dig in, can you give the 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 national nonprofit that works to improve education to career pathways for adult learners. What that means is we bring together organizations that support adult learners and we provide them with the tools and solutions they need to effectively serve this population. My Role, they are is, you know, doing research projects and writing about this work and 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 your research how that will inform this conversation, because as we look through economic recovery trends and certain economic signals, we're seeing in certain employment signals that we thought we were seeing that aren't showing up. I think getting a little bit of a 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 four do not have a post secondary credential. help us understand what the current employment opportunities look like for this group. So current is is the problematic part of your question, right. So there are a lot of moving parts to your question. At the very at this very moment, right we're in the middle of 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 see in the labor market for, say, the next couple months or the remainder of this year. In fact, now, in the early days of the pandemic, we saw that people working jobs that could shift to remote work were more 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 we know 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 think that we'd see opportunities start to open up for folks without degrees. So we have restaurants, we have other hospitality, we've got retail starting to open up a lot more, but it's still a pretty complicated picture. So one issue to 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't return. And the reason is because in this country, despite women's advances and education and career achievements over the last few generations, women still take on the bulk of child care responsibilities in many, if not most, households and, as you know, childhre services are still not as available as they were prior to the pandemic, or they're inconsistently offered, and many schools are still not quite full time for children. So when there's no childcare, it's hard to go back to work, and that kind of phenomenon is what really is making this particular recovery so unusual and so hard...

...to understand. You know what the trends are and where we're headed, but generally speaking, if we think about how our economy is structured, where it's headed, what the growing industries and occupations are, we can pretty much bet that the jobs that were going to see emerging in the future, all the new jobs, they're going to require higher levels of skills than in previous generations or prior to the pandemic. And this has been a trend for quite a while. The last recovery, you know, 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 that great recession is new jobs were created. George Town Center for Education in the workforce, they estimated that ninety nine percent of those new jobs required at least some kind of college education. Now, obviously, it's not just any college course work that positions people for good jobs. The real ticket to good jobs is a 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 hopefully looking to re enter the market potentially, the skills requirements for employers have have increased over this last year. Do most adults seek college as the most obvious opportunity to upskill today, and or should they? You know, probably ten years ago I would say that a college degree was the most obvious opportunity that just 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 slightly different place now. And yet even even now I'm not sure that working adults who are needing are needing upskilling. I'm not sure that they are really aware 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 strata education network. Where an affiliate in that group and strata has been doing some great work this past year and tapping into the voice of the education consumer during the pandemic. Some really interesting stuff that they've been putting out last year in the thick of the pandemic. So they surveyed adults without degrees and what they learned 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 job or advance in their career, and only like about a third said that they even had a good understanding of what skills they should be developing. So they know they need more education and training, but they don't exactly know what that needs to be. And in general, I'd say that there's a misperception out there and a lot of circles that a four year degree is what is required for employment in a growth industry or a well paying occupation or to get ahead in life right and adults without degrees may really think that's the only way to access good jobs. But the truth is that there's you know, there are many jobs that pay well and that have a good long term employment outlook and that don't require a bachelor's degree. And I'm thinking in particular about jobs and industries like allied healthcare, it advanced manufacturing industries like that. Now these jobs do require some additional skills and competencies beyond a high coll diploma, and often they're going to require some kind of formal short term credential, so something less than a four year degree. So job seekers do have different options to consider if 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 what kind of training do I need for those jobs, and what kind of short term credential is going to really have value...

...in the labor market? And what makes it even more challenging is that the skills needed in one regions labor market might not be the case in a different regions. So this is all very place based and it's important, then, so for adults who wanting or wanting to reskill, they need to be asking really good questions about a training or credential program. So what occupations is that program training for? What's the Labor Market Outlook for that job in my region and what's the record of this particular program in terms of placing its graduates in those jobs? And on the flip side of that, institutions really need to be prepared to answer those kinds of questions. And just one more thing I would say. You know, on top of all those kinds of questions, you know, the adult learner is going to need to know what's this program going to take in terms of time and money. And in this pandemic, you know, lower income workers, particularly lower income workers of color, have been hit the hardest when it comes to upskilling or reskilling. They are going to want options that get them to available jobs quickly and without, you know, a really high sticker price. So what I hear you saying is that one major benefit higher at has is this historical understanding that college is the pathway to career and life success. And so 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 perspective adult audience from higher at really look like? Yeah, so, you know, Kale, my organization has worked with a lot of colleges and universities over the years who are wanting to make their programs better for adult learners and you know, we work with them on many different dimensions of making programs more accessible and targeted to adult learners needs. But what becomes clear very quickly as we have these conversations with them is that it's not just offering online courses or evening or weeking courses. You know, that's not that doesn't make an adult learner program that's just not enough to serve adult...

...students well. You really need to think about a shift across the entire institution and think about flexibility, think about how to fit into the busy and very full adult learners lives. I'll just mention a few things that, you know, institutions need to think about. One is 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 someone who comes to your institution tuition as an adult, they are going to have some anxiety about returning to a learning environment. It may have been a while since they've been in school. They made, you know, they may have been told at various times in their lives that there aren't college material and so they they may really worry about that. So providing a place that they feel like they belong and see themselves in that place is really important. But the other thing is, you know, to offer flexibility. We talked before about the how the four year college degree may not be the best fit for every learner or for every job opportunity that's out there, and so becoming more flexible in the kinds of programs that are being offered and how they're being offered is really going to be important. So accelerated and flexible learning models are key so that 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 offered at 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 are going 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 labor market. In your labor market, adults obviously pursue post secondary education for many reasons, but most are really hoping for that better job on the other end of it. So they need to know...

...that what they're learning is relevant and it's going to prepare them for their target occupation. And you know, another thing is that institutions really need to value the learning that students are already bringing with them. So meeting them where they are on that learning journey, and that means having policies that are going to recognize transfer credits from other institutions so that 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 life experiences. So offering multiple ways to a word credit for prior learning, also called prior learning assessment, that's going to be really important. And finally, you know, related to the pandemic. You know, think about the changes that 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 necessity for everybody at some point when we needed to be at a physical distance from each other. But why not continue those online supports in a future because that could really be a big help for workers wanting to go back to school. I love the flexibility first focus that you outline, becky. Finally, any next steps advice prinstitutions thinking about this challenge, wanting to make sure that their institutions offering for upskilling for degree completion still feels like not only the right choice but the best choice for them and they want to take this adult upskilling challenge and opportunity seriously. Where should they start first? Well, I'm going to sort of bring it back to this pandemic question right. So, in terms of immediate steps that could be taken, institutions have a really great resource right at their fingertips, which is their federal relief dollars, and they need to be thinking really strategically about how to use those dollars. This is from the Higher Education Emergency Really Fund, that's from...

...the cares act and the American rescue plan, and they can use these dollars in some creative ways to support adult learners on their campuses. And so let's think in terms of you with the relief dollars. There's one portion that they have to use for direct emergency cash grants for students, and you know this money is intended not only for academic supports but also for other things that can cause a noub don't learner to drop out. So if you don't have food or housing or childcare, these emergency grants are going to really help those students with those issues. And, as we discussed earlier, you know, women have really taken on a lot of adult additional responsibilities during the pandemic and so providing them with these additional resources is really going to be money well spent. One thing just to clarify to is you know, last week the US Department of Education announced that this emergency funding doesn't need to be limited to students who are receiving title for funding. It can 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 students who have some real needs who maybe not be tied into the federal financial aid system. And then there's the other part of the emergency really fund, the really 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 be used. 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 retention related to the pandemic. So think creatively about what else might help the adult students that you know are maybe really struggling because of the pandemic. What can really 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 that allow 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's definitely something that they could do. So, Oh and also they could provide additional emergency grants with that money, so if students have some, you know, really extraordinary needs in terms of food or housing or childcare, that institutional portion can be used for those as well. So really, right now institutions have a unique opportunity to provide additional supports to adult learners right now with these resources and and I would suggest that that would be a really great place to start. Thank you. Thank you so much for your time and your expertise today. What's the best place for listeners to connect with you if they have any follow up questions? Sure? Well, they could contact me through my email at B K L E I n at Kale Dot Org, or contact Kale directly at see ae l at see a yell Dot Org, and that would be probably the best way. Awesome, becky. Thanks so much for joining us today. You're welcome. Thanks for having me. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges, downloaded today for free at Helix Educationcom. Playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss 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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