By Laura Walling, GII senior director of government affairs, advocacy & legislative affairs
For many, Labor Day is associated with the end of summer, a three-day weekend and the start of a new school year. My social media has been flooded with pictures of kids holding up their “First Day of School” signs while sporting a new outfit. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there are 56.6 million public and private elementary and secondary school students this year. Of those, 3.7 million are expected to graduate high school. In addition, 19.9 million students are expected to attend colleges and universities, including 13.9 million students who will attend four-year institutions and six million attending two-year institutions.
Today’s college students look very different from the stereotypical college kids of years gone by. NCES notes the majority of U.S. college students are now “nontraditional learners,” including older students returning to school or starting college later in life, those attending while raising children, and those attending while working.
As the population of learners diversifies, the options available to them are changing, too.
Local Goodwill organizations offer a variety of programs designed specifically for non-traditional learners. The Excel Center® — now operating in 25 cities — provides adults the chance to earn their high school diplomas, industry-recognized job certifications and college credits, all at no cost. Each Excel Center offers supports such as free onsite child care, a life coach and transportation assistance. With an expedited curriculum and flexible scheduling, students can graduate quickly, prepared to earn higher wages or to pursue post-secondary education.
Beyond high school, Goodwill organizations partner with more than 140 community colleges nationwide. Goodwill also collaborates with employers to develop training and apprenticeship programs. Students can find virtual learning opportunities through Goodwill as well. GCFLearnFree.org is a free online educational website, focusing on technology, job training, reading and math skills. The site is a program of Goodwill Industries of Eastern NC Inc. and the Goodwill Community Foundation Inc.
Outside of Goodwill, several companies – including Amazon, Walmart and the Business Roundtable, among others – made announcements this summer that they are committed to providing upskilling opportunities for their employees, thus increasing the number of working adult learners who may be heading back to school.
As the first day of class rolls around, consider going back to school or learning new skills through Goodwill or simply educating yourself on the policy areas that impact local Goodwills and the nontraditional learners they serve by enrolling in our Legislative Action Center.