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Adult learners in demand

From jewelry-making to project management, continuing education programs across the country have a lot to offer.

Academic institutions are stepping up their game in the continuing education department in response to overwhelming demand for professional and personal growth programs.

At the University of Ottawa, there’s been a 15 per cent increase in demand for continuing education programs, says Serge Blais, director of continuing education for the school.

The majority of their learners are government employees.

“They’re trying to keep their skills above par,” he said.

Some of the more popular programs are those dealing with project management or presentation skills, where students learn how to effectively facilitate meetings, manage interdisciplinary teams and do voice training.

While soft skills like these are gaining in popularity in these tough economic times, more technical skills are also gaining steam.

One of the high-demand certificates at Dalhousie University’s College of Continuing Education in Halifax is the certification program in Home Inspection.

“It started last year and it’s been growing in popularity every semester,” said Robert Moffatt, marketing manager for the college.

The certificate involves 10 modules that are 42 hours and cost $530 each.

On the opposite coast, spots in the jewelry-making classes with the Vancouver School Board’s continuing education department are getting snapped up almost as quickly as they go online.

“It’s like people are sitting there with their finger on the mouse, ready to register,” said Andy Gauthier, program co-ordinator with the department.

The increasingly competitive job market is responsible for the boom in continued learning, said Jim Fremlin, co-ordinator at a Toronto employment resource centre.

An interest in lifelong learning looks good on any resumé, he added.

“That’s a good indicator of an engaged person and someone who’s going to be an engaged employee,” said Fremlin, co-ordinator of the Parliament Street Employment Resource Centre with the Centre for Training and Education.

For professional development, soft skills programs like the new certificate in Leadership Performance at Dalhousie are in demand.

The certificate includes courses on communication, mediation and presentation skills.

“It’s the nuts and bolts of keeping an organization moving forward,” said Pam Williams, program director.

But special interest courses — such as Direct And Produce Your Own Film or a variety of new fine art courses at George Brown College — are also generating a lot of buzz.

Fremlin said although employers like to see continued learning specifically related to a job, any demonstrated interest in lifelong learning, including personal growth courses, can give an employee the edge they need when applying for jobs, interviewing or even just moving within an organization.

The good new is continuing education courses and certificates are offered on evenings and weekends, are easy on the wallet and can usually be completed at the learner’s own pace.

And if the course you’re looking for is not available, continuing education departments try their best to fulfil your needs.

“Sometimes we’re offering courses based on students telling us what they want,” said Cheryl Dunn, of the Centre for Continuous Learning at George Brown.

 
 
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