Adult student

It's not only kids who could be going back to school this fall. With unemployment numbers still high, adults can consider additional education as one way to expand their skill set to help score that next job.

The specific type of higher education adults should consider depends on their ultimate goals. It's not just a matter of picking an institution and signing up for classes - you should also consider your ultimate goal and the best course for getting there, whether it's a full degree program, a certificate or a few specialized classes.

South Mountain Community College, which has an Ahwatukee Foothills campus, has seen an increase in students over the past few years in just about every age group, many of them looking for full-time opportunities.

"We see students having to come back, whether they're getting the benefit through workforce development or they aren't getting any hits" in a job search, said Christopher Erran, coordinator of recruitment services for South Mountain.

Some of the most popular programs right now are a behavioral health certificate and technology programs, Erran said.

One of the first things the college does is advise a student on what path is best for them depending on where they want to end up. South Mountain has a career services center open to anyone in the community that offers a free test to assess talents and educational needs, Erran said.

Erran also encourages students to look at scholarships and financial aide opportunities early on in the process. South Mountain has several available, many of them tailored to students in specific degree programs or circumstances.

For instance, an opportunity that's likely expanding is the Dorrance Scholarship Programs, a three-year scholarship for single parents who have had at least a one-year interruption in their education. Students in that program get $4,000 a year toward an associate's degree or certificate program, as long as they maintain a 2.75 GPA and meet other requirements, Erran said. Ten of those scholarships were available for each of the past two years, and 20 will be available next year.

Additional education can go beyond signing up for a degree program. Some adults are looking for a few skills related directly to job hunting.

One resource available statewide is One-Stop Centers, which are run by the state's Department of Economic Security. The One-Stop Centers have all kinds of courses, including resume writing, finding the hidden job market and training in Microsoft Office and other computer skills, said Steve Meissner, department spokesman.

"There are lots of different courses geared toward trying to improve your marketability," Meissner said.

And while the One-Stop Centers don't have any affiliations with institutions of higher learning, they do help workers assess their skills and determine their best course of action for improving their skills - whether that path could lead them to the classroom or not, Meissner said.

"We'll help people look at what their goals are, and we'll assess what they should do to get there," Meissner said. "It's going to be your choice."

For more information on the state's One-Stop Centers, visit www.azdes.gov, click on the employment tab and go to the employment services section.

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