NC schools look to engage adult learners to improve workforce
Thursday, October 12, 2023
Universities in North Carolina are leaning on adult learners to address workforce gaps in the state, specifically in the shortage of teachers and nurses.
By 2025, North Carolina is projected to have a deficit of nearly 13,000 nurses, and when it comes to teachers, the state needs more than 5,000 right now.
Lori McClaren, executive director of the School of Professional Studies at William Peace University, said they are finding ways to support adult learners who have some college credit but no degree. She said one way is by streamlining the application process and partnering with local businesses to provide discounted tuition rates.
"In addition to the discounted tuition rates, we also have opportunities where we can go and do unofficial transcript reviews on site," McClaren outlined. "We can have special events where we can kind of connect with those students and make the process to applying and getting admitted just simple."
She believes the key to attracting adult learners is by simplifying the process and offering additional resources such as student supports, career coaching and extended office hours.
McClaren understands the challenges faced by adults juggling work, family and college. She emphasized the importance of creating a learning environment to equip them for long-term career success.
"We create opportunities for them to actually engage in real-world problem-solving," McClaren pointed out. "This is really so impactful for adult learners because they've kind of been there, done that in some ways. And once they get into that classroom, they realize that they are a really valuable member of their learning community."
Studies have shown increasing rates of college attendance alone will not meet the state's need for 2 million working-age adults with quality postsecondary degrees or credentials.
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