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by Danielle Anderson

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut or spin your wheels in the same place with your career. You’ve settled in and become comfortable, but what about those big dreams of one day making it to the C-Suite? What about the promotion that’s passed you by the last three times? Or perhaps you’re comfortable with your current small business model because you’ve used it for so long. You tell yourself you’re doing your very best.

Or so you think.

Just as teachers, doctors, hairstylists and marketing experts are required to attend continuing education to stay sharp in their fields, anyone looking to remain relevant in their current field or transition to the next level should take advantage of the free or low cost continuing education opportunities available, especially as Americans are retooling in a post-COVID economy.

But I’ve Finished School and I Don’t Have Time to Go Back …

Daniel J. Boorstin, twelfth Librarian of the United States of Congress said it best, “Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.”

In addition to the lifelong learners taking classes for fun and personal enrichment – yes, some people just love to learn, studies show continuing education is looked upon favorably by corporate employers and demonstrates an ability to self-motivate and lead.

According to WorkingNation, a national nonprofit dedicated to supporting higher education and eliminating the job skills gaps for everyday Americans, institutions of higher learning are adapting their programs and expanding their reach to meet the needs of individuals outside of the traditional student model, including non-degree seeking students and professionals or corporate executives.

Offering the Professional and Corporate Education program or PaCE, Stetson University is on the forefront of non-traditional learning in Central Florida, with certificates in communication, cyber security, emergency management, leadership and more.

Bud Hanson

“The professional and corporate education unit (PaCE) within Stetson University has been active for over 10 years. The main mission for PaCE has always been to provide continuing education for non-degree seeking working adults in an effort to re-skill and up-skill these non-traditional learners to achieve success within their professional careers,” said PaCE Program executive director Bud Hanson.

“The PaCE program strives to field non-credit short courses and workshops that are in demand and relevant for the local workforce by utilizing the assets we have in terms of faculty, adjuncts and classroom facilities to create programs that align with the University’s expertise and brand values,” he shared.

“As skills required in the workforce continue to advance faster than the preparation of those workers, professional education is poised for growth. Through a combination of faculty, adjuncts and subject matter experts, Stetson will provide this “new learner” with the skills and education they need to advance within their chosen profession.”

Busy professionals are turning to online providers like Coursera. With an option to choose from 5,100 courses, 45 professional certificates and 25 degrees, the self-paced classes are seen as an important tool for enhancing value in the workplace and offer insight into new career fields and training as Americans reskill or upskill.

A 2019 Coursera Learner Outcome Survey reported “87% of people learning for professional development report career benefits like getting a promotion, a raise or starting a new career.”

Universities like Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) offer several MOOC’s or “Massive Online Open Courses,” allowing prospective students a look at the course work with no cost or risk to their GPA. Those with a general interest in aerospace industry advances are able to take classes like “Emerging Trends in Aviation Maintenance” or “Safe to Fly: How Commercial Aviation is Adapting to COVID-19”.

Also poised to assist with continuing education, ERAU offers customized corporate and professional training curriculum and certificate programs focused on aviation, aerospace, business, and safety and risk management.

For a more localized experience, the Flagler County school district offers community education classes where basic computer skills including Microsoft Word and Excel can cost as little as $20 and CPR/First Aid certification is $60, while Flagler Technical College offers a more rigorous curriculum with certificates.

Sherryl Weems

Sherryl Weems, Associate Vice President of the Mary Karl College of Workforce and Continuing Education at Daytona State College says they’re helping the workforce of today meet the needs of employers in an affordable and flexible way through targeted workforce training, continuing education and business services including the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the Center for Business & Industry (CBI).

“All of our programs fit the Daytona State profile in terms of being affordable in terms of being able to respond rapidly to new and emerging needs in our economy and we are hallmarked by our ability to be flexible particularly in our continuing education components,” said Weems.

Whatever the field, from service to high tech, learning new skills can only increase your value in the workplace according to leadership and professional development consultant Dr. Joe Saviak, President of Saviak Consulting LLC.

“A record number of working professionals nationwide are returning to the classroom for new or added training, certifications, licenses and college degrees.  The benefits are increased opportunities for promotions, greater job satisfaction, a change of careers, or [charting] a different professional path within their current career field,” said Saviak.

Dr. Joe Saviak

“The good news is our region offers excellent options for working professionals to gain new knowledge and skills that will translate into more rewarding, valuable and sustainable careers.”

Danielle Anderson has worked in the public relations and media industry for a decade. She started her career as a reporter for Flagler Broadcasting where she discovered her passion for telling the stories of communities in Florida.

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