Help for returning adult students
Cristalyne Bell, Editor in Chief
February 9, 2011
Filed under News
Inflated unemployment rates over the past several years have led to a major increase in college enrollment. To accommodate an older generation returning to school, Madison Area Technical College received a $750,000 post-secondary education grant to develop The Center for Adult Learning.
The center is intended to prepare adults for high-growth and high-demand occupations. Its success has led to community partnerships and additional funding for expansion.
Eric Gossens learned about the center in 2009 before it was even a reality. The college has been assisting dislocated workers since that summer, and in early 2010 the new center opened to the public.
It wasn’t until this year that Gossens actually enrolled in the program. After losing his job of nine years as a facilities manager and being out of work for a month, Gossens began working part-time in construction. The income wasn’t enough to make ends meet, so he picked up a second part-time job at Milio’s sandwich shop.
In addition to the difference in pay and benefits, there is a stigma that goes along with having to pick up another part-time job to afford the cost of living.
“I definitely feel over-qualified for the Milio’s job,” Gossens said.
Going from full-time to part-time due to economical reasons was a common occurrence during the recession. In light of a seemingly improving economy the U.S. Department of Labor reported that the number of involuntary part-time workers declined from 8.9 to 8.4 million in January. However, statistics also indicated that the labor force remained unchanged.
The circumstances for Gossens have also remained unchanged. Although he has specialized skills in a number of trades including plumbing, electrical and auto repair, Gossens has been unsuccessful in his search for full-time employment since November 2009. Thus, last year he began considering other options.
“I decided that trying to get government granted money to try to go back to school was something I was interested in and should try and pursue,” Gossens said.
After completing a series of steps, Gossens is now able to begin the manufacturing academy at Madison College next week.
“Even though I might not be able to go and take the exact classes that I’m looking for at least I can get my foot in the door,” Gossens said.
At 31, this will be the first time Gossens has attended school in more than a decade. After high school he attended part of a semester of college, but became discouraged with the cost and dropped out. He said he is excited to be returning, but also feels a little apprehensive.
“There are definitely some nerves, but I’m trying to get my game face on,” Gossens said.
Through completing the program, Gossens said he hopes to obtain a well-playing, full-time job.
“If this academy helps me to show some company that I have the skills that they want in a full-time employee, that would definitely be the major goal,” said Gossens. “If that doesn’t happen right away I am interested in more schooling after this academy if possible.”
Unfortunately, competition in the work force could continue to increase. Dislocated workers like Gossens may not be the only adults seeking additional education.
Instructor Margaret Vaugh, who teaches labor economics at Madison College, is predicting a new trend in adult education. Vaugh has been teaching management subjects for the past 10 years. During this time she has seen the number of dislocated workers in her classrooms fluctuate.
“I think we are going to see more men coming back and not necessarily dislocated workers, to refresh their knowledge base than we have had before,” Vaugh said. “(Education) is a labor market insurance policy to keep from being dislocated as much as to respond to being dislocated.”