More adults are heading back to the classroom, experts say, and they’re doing it for a number of reasons: Staying competitive in an unstable job market, networking with peers in the field and having a fun night out.

“In a softening economy, you want to make sure you make your resumé and employment as recession-proof as possible,” said Julia Hanigsberg, dean of the G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University. “By updating your skills, you make yourself more desirable to your current employer. Another reason is that in the current economic times, your employment might be precarious, so you need to make yourself more employable in a wider sector.”

Among the most popular disciplines in which adults enrol, according to Hanigsberg, are courses dealing with environmental issues and sustainability, food security and health services — fields with growing demands.

“People often don’t have static careers the way they might have (had) in the past,” Hangisberg said.

“In today’s knowledge-based economy, you need to have skills that are transferable and nimble. There are always ways to increase your skills and knowledge.”

Though you can still learn and stay where you are. Christina Fougere has worked at the same telecommunications company for 20 years in a number of positions. As a student pursuing a project management professional designation, Fougere says what she’s learned has made her job easier to do.

“I was nervous at first, but I would say the benefits outweigh any apprehensions you might have,” she said. “I would encourage any adult to get into it. It’s certainly given me more confidence at my job.”

Adults do, however, face some obstacles in going back to school, such as time constraints.

But schools must do their best to accommodate, says Lorna Prediger, marketing and communications manager for the University of Calgary’s department of Continuing Education.
The University of Calgary has made it a top priority, Prediger said.

Online course enrolment has increased dramatically as a result, notes Hanigsberg. “Most of our adult students are fully employed. They need to do learning on their own schedule to fit it into their work and family obligations.”

In Fougere’s case, the biggest benefit is that she gets a little time away from those obligations.
“Class is a fun night out; for a few hours I’m not a wife, a mom or a co-worker. I’m a student,” she laughs.

Help from provincial government
• Second Career is an Ontario government program that offers training for a new job, including financial support. It provides career planning and financial support specially designed to help laid-off Ontarians participate in long-term training for a new job. Career counsellors in Employment Ontario offices across the province can help you take the first step.

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