Helping Adult Learners Navigate Community College and the Labor Market

Author(s): No individual author identified

Organizational Author(s): Workforce Strategies Initiative at the Aspen Institute

Funding Source: Charles Stewart Mott Foundation

Resource Availability: Publicly available

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Examines the challenges adult learners face while attending community colleges and recommends strategies to help adult learners overcome these challenges.


“From 2008 to 2010, the Aspen’s Institute Workforce Strategies Initiative…conducted Courses to Employment (C2E), a study of six nonprofit-community college partnerships serving low-income communities and workers…The findings on students’ outcomes are encouraging, clearly showing that these partnerships help students persist in college to complete training and obtain a better job once their training is finished. To help students accomplish these goals, however, partnerships must address a number of student barriers or ‘traps’ on the path to college enrollment, completion, and employment or career advancement. This brief describes some of those traps, as identified by adult learners and workforce leaders at the community colleges and nonprofits involved in C2E partnerships. It also offers examples of strategies that C2E partnerships use to address these traps” (p. 2-3). (Abstractor: Author)

Major Findings & Recommendations

Key challenges that adult learners encounter when entering college include:
• “Hurdles to applying and enrolling” (p. 5).

• “Difficulty understanding the college system” (p. 5).

• “Inadequate career counseling” (p. 5).

• “Challenges in applying for and obtaining financial aid” (p. 5).

Strategies for enrollment, registration, and financial aid include:
• “Providing intensive services off campus” (p. 6).

• “Outreach and referral services” (p. 7).

• “Preparation for community college placement exams” (p. 7).

• “Supplemental career advising” (p. 7).

• “Bridging costs and financial aid gaps” (p. 7).

Several factors influence adult learners’ persistence to completion:
• “The need for basic skills development” (p. 9)

• “Lack of confidence and vision for personal success” (p. 9))

• “Juggling family, work and school” (p. 9)

• “Insufficient access to support services”(p. 9)

Strategies to help adult learners increase their persistence include:
• “College and basic skills preparation” (p. 10).

• “Integrating technical and basic skills instruction” (p. 10).

• “Confidence and motivational supports” (p. 10).

• “Additional academic supports” (p. 11)

• “Case management and access to a range of wrap-around services” (p. 11)

• “Supplemental assistance with ongoing career planning and counseling”(p. 11)

Key challenges that adult learners may face when transitioning to the labor market include:
• “Limited experience with job search, interviews and resumes…

• Limited work experience…

• Limited employment networks…

• Unrealistic expectations about work qualifications and requirements…

• Limited strategies for career advancement”(p. 12-13)

Strategies to help adult learners transition to the labor market include:
• “Helping students develop realistic expectations about employment…

• Providing work-like training environments and internships…

• Combined efforts to engage employers and industry…

• Employment retention efforts and work supports”(p.14-15)

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

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Content Type: Resource

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Views: 42
Publication Date: 2013
Posted: 6/26/2015 3:03 PM
Posted In: Workforce System Strategies
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