Ever since the deep recession hit four years ago, many colleges have been rethinking their continuing education programs, straining to figure out how best to help the many unemployed Americans who have looked to them as a lifeline.
With the unemployment rate still stubbornly high, this rethinking has led to a powerful trend in which many schools, whether prestigious state universities or workhorse community colleges, are trying harder than ever to tailor their continuing-education offerings to where the job openings are — and where the jobs of tomorrow will be.
The University of California, Los Angeles has established a program in “global sustainability” that includes courses on renewable energy and green marketing. With the nation’s exports booming, Miami Dade College has expanded its program to train people to become private customs brokers — facilitators of overseas shipping. Seeing how Google, Facebook and Twitter have exploded in popularity, New York University and Rutgers University have set up programs in digital marketing.
“We’ve become much more focused, much more agile and much more driven by what the data is telling us on where the jobs are,” said Bob Templin, president of Northern Virginia Community College. “We’re very market-oriented now, whereas before we would offer the courses that people were interested in teaching and we’d see who would show up. In the last 24 months, we’ve thoroughly reorganized our continuing-education unit, and we now refer to it as ‘Work Force Development in Continuing Education.’ ”