The Landscape of Lifelong Learning

The Landscape of Lifelong Learning; What’s Current, New and Hot In Continuing Education, Workforce Development And Community Education Across the Country

Executive Summary
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; Agritech manufacturing 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, (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:
Administrative support
Waste management (water and sewage)
Remediation services
Motion picture production
Newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishing
Leisure (arts, entertainment, and recreation
Hospitality (accommodations and food services)
Truck transportation
Warehousing& Storage
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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.