Posted April 26, 2016 by Mark Perna
As community colleges, technical colleges, and career and technical centers know, gaining a competitive edge in the workplace doesn’t just come with high school or even college graduation. The adult learner market is large and has great potential to grow, as a 2007 study demonstrated. The intervening years have only proven that fact as more and more adults are seeking to climb the career ladder, switch to an entirely different field, and update their existing skills (especially in rapidly changing industries such as information technology, healthcare, manufacturing, and others). So the market for adult education is out there — but how best to reach these learners?
While there is some overlap in the messages that matter to both adult learners and high school students, there are also significant differences. High school students are all about exploration, trying new things, and discovering what they’re good at. They may view CTE programs as a fun extension of their high school experience, alongside band and sports and other traditional high school activities. Adult learners, on the other hand, are often far more focused on the end goal of their educational investment. Many have work and family obligations they must juggle in order to successfully complete a career training program. So what messages resonate most strongly with your prospective adult learners?
Most of all, your prospective adult learners want to know that they’re valued in a world that seems built for a traditional, linear high school → postsecondary learning → career model. They haven’t missed their window to learn; their skills and contributions are critical to the economy. They aren’t at a disadvantage for having been out of school for awhile; they bring more mature life experience and focus to their education. They’re not an afterthought; they matter to you. While these ideas may not be explicitly stated in marketing collateral, an organization that emotes a genuine warmth and value for adult learners will experience increased enrollment among this demographic.
So what are the strategies and messages you use to reach your adult learners? Let’s hear from you!