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Article updated: 1/2/2013 3:35 PM

ECC receives grant money to train adults 50 and older

By Tara García Mathewson

Elgin Community College will join dozens of colleges across the country in dedicating new resources to retrain students 50 and older.

ECC received a three-year $15,000 grant from the American Association of Community Colleges as part of the organization's Plus 50 Encore Completion Program, which aims to help 10,000 adult students earn certificates or degrees in health care, education and social service fields.

AACC launched the initiative with 13 pilot sites in 2008, aiming to expand to 100 colleges. The organization announced grant funding for 11 schools in August and 17 more in December for a cohort that included ECC.

Anne Hauca, director of workforce transitions, said the grant will not change ECC's current programming, it will enhance it. With $5,000 per year, ECC will be able to offer more workshops and counseling sessions. Those initiatives have been in place for about five years already, Hauca said. And of the 100 or so people seeking out her office each month, 60 to 80 percent of them are older than 50.

At ECC, the focus is on connecting adults with one-year certificate programs.

"A lot of the folks that come through our doors, they're not necessarily interested in more education, they just need someone to help them get on a path," Hauca said.

Besides money for the training programs, ECC will receive access to tool kits and marketing resources to reach baby boomers as well as support from other community colleges that have already successfully implemented the Plus 50 program.

ECC President David Sam said the college is excited to be part of the program, which will prepare adult students for jobs such as clinical lab assistants, surgical technicians, pharmacy technicians, early childhood educators and substance abuse counselors.

"This program gives us another tool to help returning adults over 50 be successful," Sam said in a news release.

The initiative focuses on health care, education and social services to help students get training for high-demand occupations that also improve communities.

An evaluation of the Plus 50 initiative by San Francisco-based LFA Group: Learning for Action found that 89 percent of students agreed college workforce training helped them improve upon existing skills or acquire new job skills and 72 percent said the training helped them get hired.

The AACC is accepting applications for the next round of grants until Feb. 15. The program is funded by a $3.2 million grant from Deerbrook Charitable Trust.

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