Adult Learning and Workforce Development
Workforce development continues to be an ongoing challenge in all sectors throughout New Hampshire, which means the job market remains excellent — providing candidates have the skills employers need and want.
Our experts: Luckily, there are a number of adult learning options that can train workers to prepare them for good-paying jobs in new careers. We reached out to three experts who can help provide guidance along the path to a new career:
- Lauren Osowski, Director of Adult Education at the Adult Learning Center, in Nashua. nashuaalc.org
- Samantha Belcourt, CTE, Coordinator of Continuing Education, at Nashua Community College. nashuacc.edu
- Steve Kossakoski, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of the Virtual Learning Academy Charter School. vlacs.org
What should I look for in an adult education program?
Belcourt: “Because students seeking continuing education programs are often working adults with family and other responsibilities, it’s important for the program to be flexible. Nashua Community College addresses this by offering continuing education programs in the evenings, online, and on Saturdays to accommodate students’ work schedules.”
Osowski: “We work hard to make sure our classes and programs are accessible and flexible in order to meet the needs of our students. Students who are looking for adult education classes should feel comfortable speaking with staff about their needs and goals. In classes, we cover soft skills and computer skills in addition to academic material. If a student’s needs cannot be met with class alone, we offer a tutoring program for personalized lessons. Adult education is very nimble, so students should find a program they feel comfortable in and not be afraid to ask for help.”
In what ways are your programs focused on working adult students?
Kossakoski: “Our customized learning model provides students with a tremendous amount of flexibility. Students can access courses and instructors wherever they can connect to the Internet. We are an open enrollment school which means that students can begin working in a course on any day of the year. And, students can work at a pace that meets their needs. For example, if a student struggles with math and needs more time and support to complete an assignment, we can make that happen. Students who are New Hampshire residents, under the age of 21, and have not completed a high school diploma can attend our high school free of charge. For adults, our tuition fee structure is designed to allow them to create a schedule that will help them meet their goals. Adults only pay for the courses they need based on when they will have time to learn.”
What are the benefits of enrolling in an adult education program?
Belcourt: “Continuing education programs are affordable, accessible and flexible. Programs offered through the Community College System of New Hampshire, which includes Nashua Community College, have the lowest tuition in New Hampshire. For-credit programs are covered by financial aid, and students — especially adult learners — may be surprised to learn how many grants and scholarships are available to them. The flexible hours offer broad accessibility no matter what your work schedule looks like.”
Osowski: “Most adult education classes are free for students. Dedicated teachers work hard to make sure all students feel valued and comfortable, and they use a very individualized approach in class. We also have additional supports outside the classroom to help students be more successful. We have counselors to assist with finding resources to overcome barriers, exploring college and career options, and learning to navigate the community. We also offer a volunteer tutoring program for students who need help with specific academic or workplace goals.”
What are some of the Adult Learning Center’s most popular/most successful programs?
Osowski: “Our most popular classes are our ESL (English as a Second Language) classes. We offer six different levels of class to accommodate all levels of English learning and morning and evening classes to accommodate different schedules. Another popular program is our HiSET (High School Equivalency Test — formerly GED) Preparation. The leveled classes help students prepare for the test at their own pace with a supportive group of classmates, teachers, and counselors.”
What are some of Nashua Community College’s most popular/most successful continuing education programs?
Belcourt: “The most popular certificate and associate degrees students select are: Business Administration programs, which includes Accounting, Management, Entrepreneurship, and Paralegal. Other top choices are Human Services, Computer Networking, Cybersecurity Networking, Data Analytics, Manufacturing, and Electronic Engineering Technology. Each program offers the option of an associate degree or certificate. Classes are offered in the evenings, online, and weekends.”
What makes VLACS different from other online learning programs?
Kossakoski: “Relationships and flexibility. Our instructors care about their students and take the time to learn about their needs and goals. We also understand that adults have busy lives so we designed a learning model that can be accessed anywhere at any time. Our pricing model is also flexible. Some of our students register for four weeks to refresh their math skills while others may enroll for two months to complete an English course.”
Who can take part in Virtual Learning Academy’s adult education programs, and how will it help me prepare for college?
Kossakoski: Anyone who is twenty-one years of age or older is welcome at VLACS. While most of our students reside in New Hampshire, we have helped students from many states. We have a complete array of college preparatory courses in English, history, biology, mathematics, and more. We also have numerous elective courses such as photography, nutrition, and web design.”
I haven’t been in a classroom for some time. As a non-traditional student, will I feel welcome/comfortable?
Osowski: “Yes! In adult education classrooms, all students are in some way ‘non-traditional.’ All students are welcome regardless of their background, nationality, race, ethnicity, age, first language, learning style, abilities, etc. We currently have 1,000 students from 70 different countries. Although our students come from different backgrounds, all our students and staff come together to support each other. This diverse learning environment creates a positive space for everyone!”
Belcourt: “This is a very common concern. I regularly meet with non-traditional students to share campus and community resources geared toward adult learners, or non-traditional students. This group actually makes up the majority of our student body as ‘non-traditional student’ represents anyone who has taken a break between high school and college, as well as veterans, parents, and anyone working while attending college. It also includes those with past college experience returning to finish a degree. Most adults don’t realize how close they are to actually finishing a degree — they are probably closer than they think.
“Say someone wants to complete a business degree, and has experience working in management. They can take a prior learning assessment to see if the institution can award them any credits for their experience. There is a national movement called ‘Degrees When Due’ that addresses this degree gap for students with prior college experience.”