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Community colleges take lead in retraining retirees for new jobs

Resource type: News

USA Today |

The American Association of Community Colleges is developing a nationwide program to retrain the crush of adults who will want — and need — to find new work after traditional retirement age, the group will announce today.

The organization, which represents 1,200 community colleges across the USA, received a $3.2 million grant from The Atlantic Philanthropies
to develop programs to retrain adults 50 and over — including the nation’s 79million baby boomers — so they can re-enter the workforce or find volunteer opportunities doing something new.
Initially, 15 community colleges that win competitive bids will develop programs. Five of those will serve as mentor institutions.

Many older students already attend community college to prepare for new careers, but the association sees a need for a more formal program to help them retrain en masse, especially as the oldest baby boomers begin turning 65 in 2011.

“We have this huge generation that is approaching retirement — or at least retirement years,” says George Boggs, president of the community college association.

“If they really did retire in the traditional sense, we would have some significant labor shortages. But the good news is that all the research we’ve seen indicates that this generation does not want to retire in the traditional sense. They want to remain active. They want to prepare for second careers or volunteer activities. And of course they’re going to be looking for a convenient place to do that.”

About 79% of baby boomers plan to pursue some kind of work after the traditional retirement age of 65, a survey by the AARP shows.

Not only will they want and need to find work that provides income and benefits, but they also will want meaning and fulfillment, says Marc Freedman of Civic Ventures, a San Francisco-based think tank that has a similar program with 10 community colleges to prepare boomers for careers in education, health care and social services.

Currently, many jobs for re-entry retirees focus on the retail sector, says Freedman, author of Prime Time: How Baby-Boomers Will Revolutionize Retirement and Transform America. “It should be just as easy for someone to become a teacher or a nurse or work with homeless people as it is to sell a lawnmower at Home Depot or a cup of coffee at Starbucks,” he says.

Boomers, adds Robert Morison, co-author of Workforce Crisis: How to Beat the Coming Shortage of Skills and Talent, want to do the “same things young employees do. They want to do interesting work. They want a social workplace, and they want to be able to learn stuff on the job. So if there are programs that can jump-start their ability to do that, I think it’s wonderful.”

And retraining them at community colleges, where classes are relatively inexpensive, “is a brilliant idea,” Morison says.

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American Association of Community Colleges, Civic Ventures