Focusing Outreach on 'Career Seekers'

By Wendy Erisman
Strix Research, LLC

Many adult college completion projects focus on reaching adults with some college credit or “near completers” who are only a few credits away from a degree. Evaluations conducted by these projects suggest that this group of near completers can be difficult to locate and even more difficult to re-enroll.  One approach that some projects have found to be successful for reaching adult college students is to instead focus on “career seekers”—adults who are motivated to improve their employment situation by earning a postsecondary credential.

To reach these potential students requires outreach to places where career seekers may be going for information and assistance, particularly community-based organizations and workforce agencies. Community colleges are particularly well placed to provide this outreach and information because of their close connections to the communities they serve. Many community colleges, in fact, already serve adult career seekers through their workforce training and continuing education programs.

Two Lumina-funded adult college completion projects have used this approach to increase college completion among a particular target group of career seekers: adults age 50 and older (American Association of Community Colleges) and vulnerable, and often low-skill, adults who have faced challenges such as poverty, substance abuse, or incarceration (Goodwill Industries International). Further blog posts will profile each of these approaches as they have played out in partnership with a specific community college.

A Few Lessons Learned

  • Career seekers want a credential as soon as possible, because they are motivated from a desire to make a change in their current employment situation. Stackable credentials are a valuable resource for this group, allowing them to finish a certificate quickly but then return for further training or an associate’s degree when they are ready.
  • Computer skills can be a challenge for many career seekers, particularly those who may have been out of work for some time or have been working in a career that does not require much computer use. Offering brush-up workshops on computer skills is a key support for this population.
  • Like many adult students, career seekers often need financial assistance to enroll in college. Program staff must be creative in helping students identify all the financial assistance for which they are eligible, which may include federal, state, and institutional student aid, workforce training funds, veterans’ benefits, and/or public assistance funds.

Note: Strix Research works with Higher Ed Insight, serving as the independent evaluator for Lumina Foundation's adult college completion strategy.


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